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.
The science-fiction pundits were wrong. The future of space travel doesn’t look like a Buck Rogers-style rocket poised to roar straight up into the twinkling heavens from a tinkerer’s backyard. What space travel will look like, according to a company called Stratolaunch Systems−which includes board member and backyard tinkerer Burt Rutan−is kind of unsurprising, more airplane-like, although no less fantastical.
EADS Astrium (Stand H23) is displaying a model of its proposed Space Plane, which would require seven years of development between actual program launch and first commercial flight.
Global airlines are still suffering reduced demand for flights, but the Virgin Group’s dream of launching passenger flights into space has received a boost in the form of significant new investment from Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments. The Middle East firm will invest about $280 million to take a 32-percent stake in Virgin Galactic, valuing the subsidiary at almost $900 million.
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.
Northrop Grumman finalized its acquisition of Scaled Composites on August 24, increasing its shares from 40 percent to 100 percent. Scaled Composites is the aerospace and specialty composites development company founded and run by Burt Rutan, known most recently for designing the first privately funded rocket-powered spacecraft, SpaceShipOne. The spacecraft made its first supersonic flight on Dec.
Northrop Grumman now owns 100 percent of Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites. On August 24, Northrop Grumman, which already owned 40 percent of Scaled, closed on the purchase of the remaining 60 percent. Scaled continues to work on the program to deliver SpaceShipTwo to Virgin Galactic. “The relationship between Scaled Composites and the Virgin Group is unchanged by this transaction,” a Northrop Grumman spokesman told AIN.
Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson is touting the UAE as one of the world’s first space tourism centers when his Virgin Galactic venture begins suborbital flights at the end of the decade.