Space flight fare wars blast off

XCOR Lynx space craft

The space flight fare wars are on.  The major groups that will soon offer suborbital space flight have lopped off 50% or more to attract flyers.

Of course such fare wars are unlikely to start a stampede into space as we're still talking on average about $200,000. But RocketShip Tours and XCOR Aerospace recently said the cost of their suborbital space flight, which will begin operation in 2010 will be $95,000. This includes a five-night stay at a luxury resort, complete training, medical evaluation and screening, cancellation insurance and, of course, the flight itself, the company said. Reportedly about 20 customers have already signed up to take the flight.

Virgin Galactic, founded by the well-known entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is currently offering a similar experience for $200,000. Other space flight groups such as Space Adventures can charge $3 to $5 million for space flights.  Space Adventures sets up flights to the International Space Station and has or will host a variety of high-profile flyers such as ex-Microsoft developer Charles Simonyi, computer game entrepreneur Richard Garriott and tech industry icon Esther Dyson.

Participants in the Rocketship Tours program will travel to the edge of space in a suborbital space vehicle known as the XCOR Lynx that is powered by environmentally friendly liquid propelled rocket engines, the company said. XCOR Aerospace aircraft are being used for the fledgling Rocket Racing League. Those aircraft are liquid oxygen rocket-powered jets based on the four-seat canard propeller-based experimental Velocity aircraft.  The Lynx looks like a small private aircraft and takes off and lands like one.  It flies to about a height of 38 miles.

Unlike the plans for Virgin Galactic that call for customers to fly to space with several other travelers, the RocketShip Tours experience calls for a single passenger on each flight who will actually sit in the co-pilot's seat beside the astronaut-pilot flying the ship.

"Our goal is to make space travel accessible and affordable to those who aspire to experience the ultimate adventure. By reducing the cost of it by more than 50 percent, we think we have taken a major step toward accomplishing this goal, " said  Jules Klar, Chairman and CEO RocketShip. A deposit of $20,000 is necessary to begin the process of assigning the flyer to the training and qualification program.

The FAA's Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation recently gave a speech that put forth the proposition that  commercial space flight ventures could become so prevalent in the next 25 years it will be just as common to see a rocket ship of some sort zoom over your house as a 737.

He noted that in the next 25 months a host of space-based activities would be taking place that would drive commercialization of space travel including the first flight of Orbital's new Taurus II rocket which will take place in late 2010. The Space X website lists 11 flights through 2010;  XCOR Lynx development; Scaled Composites is expected to be busy testing its  WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo craft; and Bigelow Aerospace has announced plans to launch their Sundancer module early in the next decade.

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