Space tourism companies work to press forward with projects

Virgin Galactic later this month in Mojave, California, is preparing to roll out its new SpaceShipTwo, a vehicle the company hopes will one day take tourists to the edge of space.

See Full Article

It comes roughly 15 1/2 months since an earlier incarnation was destroyed in a test flight, killing one of the pilots. Despite the setback, the dream of sending tourists to the edge of space and beyond is still alive. Space tourism companies are employing designs including winged vehicles, vertical rockets with capsules and high-altitude balloons.

A look at projects currently under development:

VIRGIN GALACTIC

The most prominent space tourism program, the commercial space line founded by adventurer-business mogul Sir Richard Branson will use a winged rocket plane dubbed SpaceShipTwo, successor to SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 won the $10 million Ansari X Prize that was intended to spur the industry's development.

SpaceShipTwo is designed to be flown by two pilots and carry up to six passengers on a suborbital trajectory to altitudes above 100 kilometres, an internationally recognized boundary of space.

Like early U.S. X-planes, Virgin Galactic's craft will be carried aloft by another aircraft, called WhiteKnightTwo, and released at about 50,000 feet before its rocket engine is ignited for a supersonic thrill ride to the fringes of space and a view of the Earth far below.

The space line says SpaceShipTwo's cabin is roomy enough for passengers to float during a few minutes of weightlessness before beginning an unpowered glide to a runway landing.

A key feature of the design is the so-called feathering system - a term derived from the feathers of a badminton projectile. Twin tails extending rearward from the tips of each wing rotate upward as a means to slow and stabilize SpaceShipTwo as it re-enters the atmosphere. The "feathers" then rotate back to their normal position for the rest of the glide and landing.

Virgin Galactic's first SpaceShipTwo was destroyed on Oct. 31, 2014, when a co-pilot prematurely unlocked the feathers during a powered test flight and aerodynamic forces broke the craft apart. The co-pilot was killed but the pilot parachuted to safety. The company will roll out its new SpaceShipTwo later this month in Mojave, California, but the timeline for testing and commercial operation has not been released.

Hundreds of people have put down deposits of $250,000 for a chance to fly into space with Virgin Galactic, which plans to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

BLUE ORIGIN

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin project is testing a vertical-takeoff rocket topped by a six-passenger capsule for suborbital hops.

Like Astronaut Alan Shepard's pioneering 1961 flight during Project Mercury, the capsule separates from the booster rocket and descends beneath parachutes without going into orbit around the Earth.

The unconventional twist is reusability.

Blue Origin recently conducted a test launch from Texas in which the rocket dubbed New Shepard performed a vertical landing, slowing its descent by relighting its engine as it fell back to Earth. In January, the company launched the same rocket and it again landed intact.

Blue Origin says that during flights passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness after the capsule separates from the booster. Passengers will be able to leave their seats and float about the capsule before a signal tells them to be reseated for landing.

The company has chosen Florida for its base of operations. Details of space tourism operations have not been released.

XCOR AEROSPACE

The company has spent years developing a rocket plane named Lynx that is intended to be capable of making multiple flights each day with a pilot and one passenger aboard.

Unlike Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, the Lynx will take off under its own power from a runway, climb toward space and then glide back to a runway landing. XCOR also plans flights surpassing an altitude of 99 kilometres.

In December, the company said it reached a milestone in development of the Lynx propulsion system by successfully using waste heat to drive essential engine parts, eliminating the need for large and heavy tanks of compressed gas.

XCOR, now headquartered in Midland, Texas, also reported progress late last year in completing structural components of its first Lynx as well as a flight simulator system for pilot training.

The company says it has more than 350 clients. The price of booking a seat rose from $100,000 to $150,000 on Jan. 1, but the company has not said when flights will begin.

"The fact is that we are in a process in which you just can't rush things," Lynx test pilot Harry van Hulten said in press release last fall.

WORLD VIEW

The Arizona company plans to loft passengers to altitudes above 100,000 feet in a capsule suspended below a "parawing" and a helium balloon.

The trip some 19 miles high would be to "near space" but would give a substantial view of the Earth far below while avoiding the stress of G forces endured during rocket flight.

Compared to flights on rocket-powered space tourism vehicles offering a few minutes at the top of a suborbital trajectory, World View envisions spending two hours at the maximum altitude, with amenities such as a lavatory.

The two-member crew then begins the landing process by venting helium until the capsule descends to 50,000 feet. The balloon is then released and the parawing allows the capsule to glide to a landing spot.

The company announced last month that it plans to conduct launches from Spaceport Tucson.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Giant, stinky flower blooms in Edmonton

    Tech & Science CTV News
    EDMONTON -- The sweet smell of NHL playoff success isn't the only aroma that's exciting people in Edmonton. While fans of the Edmonton Oilers celebrated their team taking a 2-0 lead in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, a corpse flower known as "Putrella" bloomed at the city's Muttart Conservatory. Source
  • Waterton, Glacier parks get dark-sky designation

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WATERTON, Alta. -- A pair of sister parks straddling the border between Alberta and Montana have received a special designation. The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, as the Canadian and U.S. parks are known, have received an International Dark Sky Park designation. Source
  • Robots boldly go where no one has gone before: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The robotic Cassini spacecraft that has been orbiting Saturn for the past 13 years began its final and most daring observation of the ringed planet by diving down through a small gap between the rings and the planet itself, a dangerous move never attempted by a spacecraft before. Source
  • Trump administration wins victory in effort to roll back Obama climate change efforts

    Tech & Science CBC News
    At the Trump administration's request, a federal appeals court agreed Friday to postpone a ruling on lawsuits challenging Obama-era restrictions on carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency had asked the court to put a hold on the case shortly after President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing officials to roll back the Clean Power Plan. Source
  • Facebook isn't doing enough to control violent posts, says expert

    Tech & Science CBC News
    more stories from this episodeMeet the godfather of Canada's outlaw biker club, Satan's ChoiceWhat's life worth? Ken Feinberg on victim compensationFacebook isn't doing enough to control violent posts, says expertFull Episode Serena McKay was just 19 when she was killed in Sagkeeng First Nation in northern Manitoba. Source
  • Facebook preparing to fight political propaganda

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Facebook is acknowledging that governments or other malicious non-state actors are using its social network to influence political sentiment in ways that could affect national elections. It's a long way from CEO Mark Zuckerberg's assertion back in November that it was "pretty crazy" to think that false news on Facebook influenced the U.S. Source
  • A robot that picks apples? Replacing humans worries some

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SPOKANE, Wash. -- Harvesting Washington state's vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States. That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market. Source
  • Humpback whale babies 'whisper' to their moms to avoid detection by predators

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Newborn humpback whales "whisper" to their mothers to avoid being detected by predators such as killer whales, new research suggests. Never captured before, the baby whale call recordings were collected using tags placed temporarily on the whales by a team of ecologists in Denmark, Australia and Scotland. Source
  • Scientists solve century-old mystery of Antarctica's Blood Falls

    Tech & Science CTV News
    It’s a mystery that has baffled scientists for more than a century; how salty, blood-red water is able to ooze out from a million-year-old glacier in a region known for its freezing temperatures. When explorer and geoscientist Griffith Taylor discovered a 54-kilometre long glacier in Antarctica that released a deep red liquid in 1911, he attributed the strange phenomenon to red algae colouring the moving water. Source
  • Robots and new technology take the stage in battle against invasive species

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A robot zaps and vacuums up venomous lionfish in Bermuda. A helicopter pelts Guam's trees with poison-baited dead mice to fight the voracious brown tree snake. A special boat with giant winglike nets stuns and catches Asian carp in the U.S. Source