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

  • Invasive bloody red shrimp discovered in Lake Superior

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MINNEAPOLIS -- An invasive species with a jarring name has turned up in Lake Superior: the bloody red shrimp. Researchers found a single specimen of the tiny shrimp in a sample collected from the Duluth-Superior harbour last summer as part of routine surveillance for invasive species, the U.S. Source
  • Venezuela's digital coin makes debut

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela on Tuesday was set to become the first country to launch its own version of bitcoin, a move it hopes will provide a much-needed boost to its credit-stricken economy. Officials say the so-called petro is backed by Venezuela's crude oil reserves, the largest in the world, though it hasn't released any details on how this will be guaranteed. Source
  • Ancient human, giant sloth remains found in world's biggest flooded cave

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Archaeologists exploring the word's biggest flooded cave in Mexico have discovered ancient human remains at least 9,000 years old and the bones of animals that roamed the earth during the last Ice Age. A group of divers recently connected two underwater caverns in eastern Mexico to reveal what is believed to be the biggest flooded cave on the planet, a discovery that could help shed new light on the ancient Maya civilization. Source
  • Quebec restricts use of pesticides linked to honeybee deaths

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Quebec has announced new restrictions on pesticides that many say have been destroying honeybees. But farmers say the new rules will make it even harder to them to protect their crops, and their livelihoods. The tighter rules announced Monday target three nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or "neonics,” which are used on everything from field crops to fruit orchards to keep them free from aphids, spider mites and stink bugs. Source
  • How vampire bats survive on an 'extreme' diet of just blood

    Tech & Science CBC News
    If you want to know how vampire bats can survive on a diet that — as everyone knows — consists exclusively of blood, the answer is simple. It's in their genes. Scientists on Monday said they have mapped for the first time the complete genome of a vampire bat, finding that this flying mammal boasts numerous genetic traits that help it thrive on an exotic food source that offers nutritional disadvantages and exposes it to blood-borne pathogens. Source
  • Canada bleeding aerospace talent by not embracing rocketry: expert

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Canada is experiencing a brain drain on its top aerospace talent, because there are no homegrown rocketry programs they can contribute to, an expert says. That’s not to say Canada is falling behind in the space industry in general, but it has lost ground in some areas by focusing on other endeavours such as satellites and robotics, according to Jeremy Wang, chief technology officer for an Ontario drone company called The Sky Guys. Source
  • Vampire bat's blood-only diet 'a big evolutionary win'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    At first glance, the cost-benefit ratio of a blood-only diet suggests that vampire bats -- the only mammals to feed exclusively on the viscous, ruby-red elixir -- flew down an evolutionary blind alley. Blood is not only teaming with bacterial and viral disease, it is also very poor in nutrients -- too few carbs and vitamins, way too much salt. Source
  • Lobster emoji gets 2 more legs following design complaints

    Tech & Science CTV News
    AUGUSTA, Maine -- After an outcry, the organization that controls the release of emojis has added two more legs to the forthcoming lobster emoji to make it correct. The Portland Press Herald reports soon after the Unicode Consortium released proposed images of 157 new emojis to be made available this year, Maine residents took umbrage at the lobster emoji's eight legs instead of the correct 10. Source
  • Archeologists find fossils, Mayan relics in giant underwater cave in Mexico

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Archeologists who have been exploring the world's largest underwater cave -- recently discovered in Mexico -- presented their findings Monday, including fossils of giant sloths and an elaborate shrine to the Mayan god of commerce. Source
  • 'It is very troubling': microplastics, other pollutants to be focus of studies funded by Ottawa

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The federal government announced $2.7 million in funding on Monday towards studying how contaminants like pesticides, anti-sea lice drugs and microplastics impact aquatic life. That announcement is good news to the vice-president of research for Ocean Wise seafood program, who says research in ocean environments has been cash-strapped for years. Source