At $200,000 a ticket it isn’t cheap but it is definitely out of this world and you get a great view. Virgin Galactic’s plans to be the first space tourism business really took off after SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X-Prize back in 2004.
Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne
When aerospace designer Burt Rutan rolled out his manned suborbital spaceflight program and its centerpiece, SpaceShipOne (SS1), from its Mojave, Calif., hangar in April last year, reporters asked about his plans for space tourism. Rutan said he himself wasn’t interested in launching a space tourism business, but he hoped others would be able to use his technology “sometime in the future” to begin a new space industry.
A bustling airport in an otherwise desolate landscape served as the backdrop for the unveiling of what’s been hailed as the world’s first private space venture.
Based on the success of the SpaceShipOne (SS1) suborbital craft’s ascent on June 21 (AIN, July, page 2)–becoming the first privately funded manned spacecraft to reach 100 km (328,000 feet)–designer Burt Rutan is confident that he and his company, Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites, will win the $10 million Ansari X Prize by year-end.
Mojave, Calif., is a unique place. As they drive north on State Highway 14, approaching the small burg of approximately 3,700 people, visitors first notice the hundreds of blades turning in windmill farms on hillsides to the west of town. Across the highway, dozens of jetliner tails sprout from the desert floor, idling in storage in the arid desert air at Mojave Airport.
A relaxed regulatory environment and increasing development in the fledgling space tourism industry may lead to opportunities for privately owned passenger-carrying space vehicles by the end of the decade, suggested government and industry officials at space-related hearings and conferences in February.
Here at the Paris air show on the static display, visitors can see a rebuilt Dassault Flamant (Flamingo) MD-312 light military transport. Its recent history is that of enthusiasts investing time and money. But the near future is even more exciting, as the Flamant is to fly across the Atlantic to the Air Venture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, next month. Tail number F-AZVG is exhibited next to the Embraer 195.
The Airline Pilots Association awarded its 2004 Air Safety Award to Robert Sumwalt, a retired US Airways captain. The award is presented to a line pilot air safety volunteer who has made significant contributions to safety through volunteer service in the association’s air safety structure.
Two teams, one American and one Canadian, are poised to capture the Ansari X Prize by mid-October, having announced initial launch dates of their privately funded suborbital space vehicles within days of each other.