Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Businesses Transportation

Space Tourism Industry Gains New Competitor 104

Posted by Zonk
from the going-on-up dept.
mattnyc99 writes "There's a new entry in the race for the first space tourism jet: XCOR Aerospace, a California-based rocket builder. The company says its clean-burning, two-seat Lynx spacecraft will lift off by 2010. After we only saw a mockup of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo a couple months back, you'd think this was serious competition in the 'New Space' race, but these photos show that Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites is well on its way with construction."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Space Tourism Industry Gains New Competitor

Comments Filter:
  • Two Notes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @03:26PM (#22885216) Journal
    As far as I know Virgin and Scaled Composites are the same endeavor, they are both signed to a two year deal to build SpaceShipTwo.

    Also, it should be noted that there was a an accident involving two deaths last year [slashdot.org] at Scaled Composites and prior to that their buyout by Northrup Grumman [slashdot.org].

    Honestly, I kind of expected that endeavor to fail as a result of those two news stories, I'm pleased to find out they are continuing on their contract although I question further contracts with Virgin.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Somewhat O/T, but I just finished the book Strange Angel by George Pendle, which chronicles the origins of professional rocketry programs in the U.S. I have a whole new appreciation for how far we have come now that I know more about where things started.

      The book reveals some truly bizarre goings on with the founders of the rocketry movement and includes appearances by Alistair Crowley, cultists, famous sci-fi authors, communists, and a swindling L. Ron Hubbard prior to the founding of Scientology.

      I though
    • by longacre (1090157) *

      Honestly, I kind of expected that endeavor to fail as a result of those two news stories, I'm pleased to find out they are continuing on their contract although I question further contracts with Virgin.
      Sir Richard Branson has a big stake in this, both financially and in the reputation of his brand, and he's already collected $30 million in deposits from passengers. Unless there's some kind of disaster, I suspect Virgin will be in this for the long haul.
    • Does Virgin has the intention to fuel SpaceShipTwo with bio-fuel that he created uses some nut (babassu nuts) from the Amazon rain forest? http://ezvancouver.com/2008/02/26/richard-branson-opened-a-vial-of-jet-fuel-made-with-oil-from-brazilian-babassu-nuts/ [ezvancouver.com]
      • Does Virgin has the intention to fuel SpaceShipTwo with bio-fuel that he created uses some nut (babassu nuts) from the Amazon rain forest?
        Perhaps the mother ship, but the space ship uses nitrious oxide and a rubber compound.
  • We just need to get "space vacations" down to the sub-million dollar mark. Right now...unless you have more money than God, you are pretty much out of luck. Good to see some competition. This will hopefully achieve the goal of lowering the price for a space getaway.
    • by garett_spencley (193892) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @03:32PM (#22885294) Journal
      "Right now...unless you have more money than God, you are pretty much out of luck."

      Bad analogy.

      Linus has certainly made some coin via free stock options from Linux companies, various donations, trademark royalties etc. but he's not THAT rich.
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @03:40PM (#22885394)
      Which raises the question: can God create a vacation so expensive that He Himself cannot afford it?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gammygator (820041)
        If he's using the accounting system of the American government, he can borrow endlessly and get Hell to pay.
      • by robertjw (728654)
        God doesn't need a spaceship. Keeps costs down.
      • Which raises the question: can God create a vacation so expensive that He Himself cannot afford it?
        Could God create a religion so crazy, even He couldn't believe in it?
      • Omnipotence implies that He would be able, but then would not that inability to pay equal the absence of omnipotence?

        And since so many people seem to think there absolutely has to be an omnipotent being:

        Wouldn't He - simply by creating said vacation, create another omnipotent being thus replacing himself?

        Would that vacation then in fact BE God?

        Or would that vacation on the contrary be the Antichrist?

        // sits back and watches thousands of religious geeks go mad ;E

        -Gin

    • by CRCulver (715279)
      You aren't getting much a space vacation with the ventures so far. A few minutes of microgravity in sub-orbit, is it really worth even a few thousand dollars?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wattrlz (1162603)
        These guys (and whoever's keeping them in business) seem to think so:
        • www.gozerog.com/
        • www.spaceadventures.com/
        • www.incredible-adventures.com/zerog.html
      • by evanbd (210358)

        For most people, no. But for some people it certainly is. It's abundantly clear that there is at least a moderate size market for these flights -- enough to make the operation profitable.

        If you want a better ride, wait a bit -- but the right way to get there, especially for a small company, is to start with a smaller, lower performance vehicle. Orbital tourism will come, but trying to do it now would be akin to trying to fly across the Atlantic in about 1905 -- the industry has barely come into existen

        • by Rei (128717)
          You say that it's "abundantly clear". And how do you arrive at this conclusion? I've heard a bunch of people make that claim, and nobody backs it up.

          Yes, there are some millionaires who've paid several million to go to orbit. But they get to *stay there for days*. It's a whole different ballpark. You're asking people to pay an order of magnitude or two less but get five orders of magnitude less time at 1/4th the altitude and 1/10th the delta-V. How many people ride MiGs to see the curvature of the Ear
          • by FleaPlus (6935)
            Now, I'm not asserting that there is no market for these launches. I just question the size of the market.

            If I recall correctly the market for suborbital sounding rocket research flights is something like $400 million a year, and even besides space tourism I imagine the emerging suborbital vehicles could take a decent bite of that market.
          • by evanbd (210358)

            It's abundantly clear if you have access to the market research. I don't right now, but I've (some of) it. No, I won't back it up more than that. If you were in a position where that research mattered to you directly (ie an investor / employee / business partner of a relevant company), you'd have access to it to.

            Accidents are no more a given in this industry than any other transportation industry. At least in XCOR's case, the vehicle has more in common with a small private plane than historical rocket

            • by Rei (128717)
              I don't right now, but I've (some of) it. No, I won't back it up more than that.

              Once again, the claim is asserted, but no data is provided.

              Accidents are no more a given in this industry than any other transportation industry.

              Oh, please -- don't give me that [youtube.com] ;) Rockets, and especially rocketplanes, have a long history of high accident rates. Even when you're working with things on the ground, it's horribly dangerous work, as Virgin recently found out.

              The rocket engines will be individually protected by bl
              • BTW, with regard to the accidents and deaths, the engines are the least of the issues (at least by record):
                1. Apollo 1: Electrical fire through the capsule; Astronauts are asphyxiated.
                2. Challenger: o-ring gave out due to low temp; The engine did fine. The ensuing flame burned hole in fuel tank and blew it. Supposedly, the astronauts were alive on the way down. It was upon hitting the ocean that they died.
                3. Columbia: Craft breaks apart due to dings in heat shield.
                4. Scaled Composites: Engine was a solid engine a
                • by Rei (128717)
                  It may surprise you to learn that there have been a *lot* more than four rocketry accidents in the world. Several percent of all launches have ended in failure. And the engines are a leading culprit. The entire Soviet manned moon mission was doomed by repeated engine problems in the N1 [wikipedia.org], for example.
              • by FleaPlus (6935)
                I will give XCOR credit for this. While I'm not the biggest fan of LOX/Methane (assuming that's what Lynx is going to use, since I know it's something XCOR has messed with; I prefer LOX/Propane because it has almost as much ISP, much higher density at 100K, and can share a common bulkhead), it does have enough ISP to reach orbit without a ridiculous scaling factor.

                Actually, according to their FAQ [hobbyspace.com], they'll be using LOX/Kerosene. If I understand correctly this is the same sort of fuel SpaceX uses, although of
                • by evanbd (210358)
                  I have some non-back-of-the-envelope numbers for you. There are 4 engines, 3000 lbf thrust each (last I heard; that may have changed slightly, but not significantly). The propellants are pump-fed by derivatives of the pump used on the Rocket Racer. The chamber itself will be similar in construction to the Rocket Racer engine, but about double the thrust (RR engine is ~1500 lbf). So the engine is a larger LOX-kerosene engine than XCOR has built, but lower thrust than the 7500 lbf Lox-Methane engine they
                • by Rei (128717)
                  LOX/Kerosene is certainly good as well. Lots of respectable orbital rockets use/have used LOX/Kerosene. ISP could stand to be better, but it's got nice density and is a mature tech.
              • by evanbd (210358)

                You're right, I'm still not providing data on the market, because I don't know of good public data. But then, I'm not asking you to believe it, either. If you want some evidence (ont sufficient, I'm aware), note that EADS Astrium is entering the market or at least planning to -- and they're not exactly a small company. If they think there's a market, that's based on data.

                When you look at the historical record for rocket engines, remember that very very few of those were designed with safety as the prim

                • by Rei (128717)
                  When you look at the historical record for rocket engines, remember that very very few of those were designed with safety as the primary concern.

                  You're kidding, right? The primary design principle of a human-capable rocket is safety while still managing to get to orbit. Unfortunately, when your design envelope is "orbit", as opposed to "joyride", you don't have a lot of margin to work with.

                  Hence my earlier comment about repurposed missiles. You'd do better to look at the safety records of things like JATO
                  • by evanbd (210358)

                    I'll discuss the safety concerns, since I think they're important, but I'll leave the rest of the discussion be.

                    The fact that the propellants tend to mix and burn or explode only after a failure may have little impact on the overall effect, but it has a huge impact on how you mitigate the risk. It means that if you can keep high speed bits of metal out of the propellant tanks, you can keep the fireball from happening (for that scenario; there are other risk factors).

                    Soyuz may be *regarded* as safe, but

      • I think there's are many thousands of people who will pony up big bucks to do something that millions if not billions of people have dreamed of doing for thousands of years. Taking their money and developing affordable spaceflight with it will benefit everyone more than if they just bought another big house in Aspen or some expensive gas-guzzline supercar.
      • Hopefully the ticket price also includes some training time.

        You'd need quite a few cycles on the vomit comet before you get the bonking-in-zero-G thing down well enough to perform under pressure in your 2 min window.
    • We just need to get "space vacations" down to the sub-million dollar mark.

      Why? Could there be anything that is greater form of conspicuous consumption that space tourism? [wikipedia.org] Do you really want to have to hear about bourgeois soccer moms in space? You do realize that that will eventually lead to Orbital Disneyland. No No No. It's too horrible to contemplate. I would much rather see the roads into space colonization carved out by industry. [wikipedia.org] I must have missed Sir Richard Branson's phone call when he rang to a
  • by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @03:27PM (#22885234) Homepage

    its clean-burning, two-seat Lynx spacecraft will lift off by 2010
    What's more, it will include web browsing capabilities.
    • See? I've been saying for years that eventually lynx will win the browser war. With this marketing boost, it shouldn't be long now! Lynx ftw!
    • by DogDude (805747)
      What's more, it will include web browsing capabilities.

      Only text-based, though.
  • When they have more than "Artist's Conception" drawings.

    I want very badly to be excited about the private space race, but with only three serious "New Space" firms with hardware in the sky (Bigelow, SpaceX, and Scaled Composites), I'm still not sure I'll ride a spaceship before I'm dead, at least not at a price I can afford.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      I'm sick of these companies with no real credentials claiming to build the next big rocket. Until you've got a prototype that can actually go into space, then STFU. Any jerkass can put together some drawings and animation.
      • While I commiserate with your sentiment, please note that XCOR is not a no-product company. They have built many engine designs, both internally and under contract - and more importantly, they have built and flown a rocket plane for the last few years. They have recently retired that plane, because they are working on two new designs.

        The first is the base design for the rocket racing league, and the second is the Lynx. The rocket racing league plane is what you would probably call "almost done", ie it lo
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      This Will Be Newsworthy... When they have more than "Artist's Conception" drawings.

      I want very badly to be excited about the private space race, but with only three serious "New Space" firms with hardware in the sky (Bigelow, SpaceX, and Scaled Composites), I'm still not sure I'll ride a spaceship before I'm dead, at least not at a price I can afford.


      Technically speaking, XCOR has had "hardware in the sky" since 2001, when they first flew the XCOR EZ-Rocket [wikipedia.org] rocketplane. A couple years ago the EZ-Rocket set
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @03:35PM (#22885330) Journal
    The xcor is designed to go with 2 ppl to 63 miles, will use rockets the entire way, and hits mach 2 at the top of the peak. OTH, SSII is designed to take 8 ppl to 120 Miles, will use jet to get up to 600 MPH, and hits mach 3. In addition, the SSII can be modified to carry small cargo and launch it. It is possible for SSII to launch small rockets akin to Orbital's, but carrying more payload.

    What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow. In fact, I would be surprised if he has not talked to both Spacex AND bigelow. The reason is that he will want to put up a hotel and get the traffic going. Once he has traffic to a hotel, then it will make pursuing the SSIII quite a bit easier.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow.

      A lot of people were hoping that yesterday's announcement would have been a deal between Virgin/Scaled and XCOR. Scaled has fantastic airframe experience but minimal rocket engine experience, and it would've been ideal for XCOR (which has minimal airframe experience but great reusable rocket engine experience) to partner with them. This would've been particularly ideal in light of Scaled's recent problems with hybrid rocket engines. Oh well...
      • Hmmm. Scaled is using Spacedev's engine, but the explosion was simply the Nitrous Oxide tank giving out. It was not really an engine problem. That will take Scaled a bit of time to learn about. Likewise, XCOR's issue is one of money. But the feds are now spending a bit of money on them. Hopefully, Spacedev is also able to get some money (from private or feds) to be able to build their dream chaser.

        Actually, I am glad that scaled and xcor did not get together. They are competitors. By remaining that way, t
        • by FleaPlus (6935)
          I mostly agree. I am curious about who's going to build the airframe for XCOR's new suborbital craft, though. Unless they're going to massively increase the size of the company, I suspect they won't be building it themselves. (The EZ-Rocket apparently used a Rutan Long-EZ [wikipedia.org] as its frame)
          • Just guessing, they will probably approach one of the aircraft builders out there. I would not be surprised to see them busy grabbing some of the ppl from the recently chap 7 Adams Air. Another possibility is Eclipse Air is backed by several MS guys, including Paul Allen. I would not be surprised to see Allen finally jump back into this. Keep in mind that Scaled has been an airframe builder, not a "spaceframe" builder.
    • by deander2 (26173) *
      and hits mach 2 at the top of the peak.

      it may hit mach 2, but at the top of its peak it's travelling at mach 0. =P
      • by solafide (845228)
        Only 0 if it's launched straight away from Earth, else the horizontal component of its velocity is non-zero at all points in the flight. /nitpick>
        • by deander2 (26173) *
          which it is, since it lands where it launches...

          now someone reply with "but you forgot the earth's rotation!" =P
      • by WhiteDragon (4556)

        it may hit mach 2, but at the top of its peak it's travelling at mach 0. =P
        Actually much sooner, as once it is out of the atmosphere, there is no air to carry sound, and with no sound, there is no speed greater than the speed of sound. I guess it is not really Mach 0, rather Mach NaN.
    • What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow.

      Unlikely to happen - as the investment in an orbital craft will be an order of magnitude or larger than that required for the suborbital one. Not to mention the fact that Virgin tends to follow loudly (making you think they are leading) rather than actually leading.

      What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow. In fact, I would be surprised if he has not talked to both Spacex AND bigelow.

      Why? SpaceX has nei

      • Yeah, yeah - there's been low fidelity demo's of the first and the last on that list. But demos aren't operational. They're barely prototypes.

        Give him credit ... do you have multiple "barely prototypes" in LEO, and is NASA contracting with you for access to the technology you are developing? I didn't think so ...
        • Whether I have or have not done those things, or whether I or do not give him credit, doesn't change their nature one bit.
      • NASA and Air force who have monitored BOTH spacex launches, say that minor changes were needed with the craft for the last launch. In fact, the Air Force is now jumping in with both feet. It has declared falcon I to be an operational system. NASA, Air Force, and others believe that Falcon I is a real launcher. Of course, Falcon 9 remains to be seen, but other than supporting parallel engines, it has the entire same system from falcon 1.

        In addition, Bigelow has 2 test systems floating up there. The real L
        • Ah, yes. And the Air Force and NASA are never wrong are they? After all, NASA declared the Shuttle an operational vehicle. And to replace the expensive Shuttle the Air Force built one of the only two launchers we've ever built that were more expensive than the Shuttle.

          Of course, you omit the fact the one of the two Bigelow orbiters has had problems - problems Bigelow hasn't discussed much in public. You are also ignorant of the fact that scaling up is not exactly simple. Etc... etc...

          Or
          • Space shuttle has been one of the bigger disasters going. I think that we both agree on that. But you omit the fact that NASA did not want it. It was pushed by Nixon. NASA told Nixon that it would be a monster costs. They wanted to keep Saturn going, but modified for LEO, and they wanted to start work on a craft that is very similar to where scaled is heading i.e. first stage is jet propelled. The difference is that they wanted to use a modified valkyre for the base, so they were looking at mach 3 at 80K. T
    • by Rei (128717)
      You realize that SSIII is complete vaporware and physically cannot be based on SS1 or SS2, right? And that SS1 and SS2 aren't encountering the challenges involved in orbital craft like extreme thermal management and high levels of delta-V, right?

      SpaceX has a booster (Falcon 1) that, but for *either* a baffle or bump suppression, would have orbitted a payload (it now has both), and nonetheless reached 2/3 of the needed delta-V (the payload even separated normally at the end of the burn). SpaceX has also be
      • We have had loads of posts about spacex. You know that I am a spacex fanboi. In fact, I even said so in the original post. I said that I am waiting for Virgin to talk to Spacex/Bigelow. With scaled's SSII, they are covering cheap tourism. But virgin likes to cover the high-end. I find it likely that he will at least rent or go in partners with Trump on this. Buy a station from bigelow and then use a falcon to launch it and service it. That is, service it UNTIL SSIII comes on-line. Will it take awhile? Most
    • by thealsir (927362)

      What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow. In fact, I would be surprised if he has not talked to both Spacex AND bigelow. The reason is that he will want to put up a hotel and get the traffic going. Once he has traffic to a hotel, then it will make pursuing the SSIII quite a bit easier.

      Privative the ISS? Then it won't be such a boondoggle, eh?

  • cover some ground (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @03:41PM (#22885412) Journal
    As I understand it, these companies both plan on sending people straight up and returning them to the same place they took off from. This is wonderful, but impractical for anything but a joy ride. How about creating something that lands you at some other place on the earth's surface? I don't even care if it can only travel from East to West.
    • by wronkiew (529338)

      As I understand it, these companies both plan on sending people straight up and returning them to the same place they took off from. This is wonderful, but impractical for anything but a joy ride. How about creating something that lands you at some other place on the earth's surface?

      Three reasons: cost, flight rate, and physics. First, physics. If your spacecraft's design has enough energy to go straight up to the edge of space and then come back down, bleeding off that energy to go cross-country is going

    • While I also believe the usefulness of suborbital space flight is limited, please note that the announcement includes the intention of the Air Force to use flights to test new space systems in an environment that is very hard to properly simulate down here...
    • Sure - that'll be $200K for you, and $200K for your suitcase. Still want to go?
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      This is wonderful, but impractical for anything but a joy ride. How about creating something that lands you at some other place on the earth's surface?

      I'd bet this is in XCOR's eventual plans, perhaps with a future craft. In fact, in 2005 their EZ-Rocket made the first delivery of US mail [wikipedia.org] by a manned rocketplane, albeit over a relatively small distance.
    • Because if they do this, you need to pay for a return trip as well.

      Granted, I realize you can use a 1-way normal airline ticket for this, but after arriving at your destination (sans luggage) incredibly quickly, would you really want to take a 22 hour flight back home? As a ride, this might be worth the price for many people; but I doubt many of them would be willing to pay it twice just to get home.

      Regardless, just give it some time, and I'm sure both services will be offered. The first airplanes d
    • Basically, these things aren't licensed like airliners. The FAA has been willing (has bent over backwards, really) to consider these vehicles as barnstormers. So they have been willing to forego the usual rounds of testing that new airliners have to undergo in order to be certified for commercial passenger use.

      This is a big deal, as the testing required to certify an airliner costs tens of millions of dollars, and takes years.

      If you try to fly these rocket planes as commercial passenger planes, that exempti
    • by x1n933k (966581)
      Wow, what a foolish comment. Yes, your understanding is correct it is a joy-ride, INTO SPACE. If people who can pay out the 200,000$ to part-take in this trip cared about flying to another spot of the world, I'm sure they'd have done so already via safer and more comfortable transportation like Passenger Jets. Remember, SSII is not meant to hold your baggage and carry-on for the destination. It's meant to give you a view of the world from orbit. Something only a handful have experienced

      [J]
  • Virgin Galactic may bet he first one to fulltime commerical spaceflight, but this industry has not even begun to bloom. It will be one of the biggest lucrative business secters in the coming decades, and I wholeheartedly look forward to the first commerical space IPO.
  • Wouldn't one have to conclude that you must have taken someone into space to be a space tourism industry member?
  • I guess it will be kind of difficult to join the mile high club with only one passenger on board at a time...then again it would be over quicker.
  • Ugly, very ugly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rbanffy (584143)
    It's the ugliest spaceship I ever saw.

    Not to say it won't fly - I am sure it will - but there is some relationship between beauty and function that seems to prevent flying machines from being ugly. This is a level of ugliness I think no flying machine ever reached. And yes, that includes the LEM.

    There is something wrong with this design. I can feel it.

  • .. to making more email space available on their servers. 30mb isn't really much these days.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @04:50PM (#22886260) Journal
    The linked article is a little sparse on info, so here's XCOR's press release [xcor.com] and a more informative article: XCOR Unveils New Suborbital Rocketship [space.com]

    Also, some additional points worth noting:

    • XCOR [wikipedia.org] isn't just some random wannabe company which recently hopped onto the "space tourism" bandwagon. They're a small (30-person) but well-respected private company noted for their expertise in building reusable liquid-fueled rocket engines.
    • In 2001 they first flew their XCOR EZ-Rocket [wikipedia.org], which made regular demonstration flights at air shows for a few years and in 2005 set the distance record [space.com] for a point-to-point rocket powered takeoff and landing.
    • XCOR has a reputation for not tooting its own horn, instead working quietly and being rather conservative about its announcements.
    • Their first version will go up to 61km, and they're planning on making incremental improvements to produce a second version that goes to 110km.
    • Estimated total project cost is $10 million, with a passenger ticket price of ~$100K (half of Virgin Galactic). XCOR isn't planning on selling tickets directly to customers though, instead selling to ride operators who will deal with customer themselves.
    • They already have a deal with a private research lab to fly multiple research flights for them each year.
    • This quote from XCOR chief Jeff Greason explains their philosophy quite nicely: Lynx is seen by XCOR Aerospace as one piece of a larger roadmap of vehicles -- a start small and then add performance approach -- eventually culminating in a piloted orbital system, Greason said. "We've selected the basket of technologies ... technologies that we believe position us very well for the suborbital market, but also put us on the road for later, higher-performance systems," he explained.
    • by drgould (24404)
      You forgot to mention their joint development project with NASA [xcor.com] to develop LOX/methane fueled rocket engines and their contract with the Rocket Racing League [rocketracingleague.com] to design and build the first generation of rocket X-Racers [xcor.com].

      But aside from that you're right on the money. XCOR isn't some new upstart company; they've been in this business for a long time and take a long-term view towards development. Suborbital vehicle development is just the next step, not the beginning nor the end.
      • by FleaPlus (6935)
        My mistake! I had meant to mention that XCOR and the Rocket Racing League would be starting rocketplane exhibition races [aero-news.net] this year, but forgot about it while looking up articles. Thanks for the reminder.
  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @04:53PM (#22886306)
    http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/7373/celestal.htm#earth [geocities.com]

    And here's the shot of Mars:
                      .
  • It looks very similar to the X-20 DynaSoar, a re-usable spaceplane that Boeing was building for the Air Force in the 1960s that was canceled as part of the Vietnam budget crunch.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-20_Dyna-Soar [wikipedia.org]

    Sub-orbital planes have very, very different needs from orbital ones, it's interesting that the design of this happens to (at least superficially) mirror the aerodynamics of the orbital X-20. Perhaps XCOR plans to collect data from the Lynx that could be applied to a followup craft with som
  • Slashdotters in general aren't familiar with the ins-and-outs of the alt.space industry, so they can be forgiven for having missed the biggest part of this story...
     
    XCOR in the past has publicly and repeatedly maintained that they had no desire whatsoever to be in the vehicle business. They wanted to be in the systems and components business. This announcement is a major change in strategic direction - and hints that possibly all is not well inside the alt.space industry.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evanbd (210358)

      Where do you arrive at that conclusion? Having interned at XCOR, that's not at all my understanding. They are building the Rocket Racer, they built and flew the EZ-Rocket, and they've been publicly discussing Xerus in vague terms for years. (Xerus is the former public name for Lynx.) I interpret this announcement as a good thing, both for XCOR and the industry as a whole.

      • From speaking with Jeff over the years and from numerous public comments. And I shouldn't have to point out that the EZ-Rocket is a technology demonstrator and that the Rocket Racer is being built under contract. Yes, Xerus/Lynx has been discussed vague terms over the years - but as either a demonstrator or something they'd be willing to build with someone else footing the bill like the Racer. *Not* as a production item being built on spec.
        • by evanbd (210358)
          Lynx has been in the works in a real sense for some time now. The Rocket Racer is the sort of contract work XCOR *likes*. I believe, but can't say for sure, that Lynx has been part of the business plan since nearly the start of the company, in some form or other. And yes, the EZ-Rocket is a technology demonstrator; however, the demonstration was basically intended to be "XCOR can build multi-engine rocket vehicles," not just a piece of eye candy to attract attention to the engines. There's a large quant
  • 200,000 feet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @05:26PM (#22886684)
    I guess 200,000 feet could be defined as "space." It's certainly suborbital. The X-prize required 80 km though, didn't it? That's about 262,000 feet.
    • by evanbd (210358)
      Space is usually defined as 100km, which is what was used for the X-Prize. 200,000 feet gets you a couple minutes of free fall, black sky, and a curved horizon. For tourist purposes, that's functionally "space", but it doesn't meet the usual definition [wikipedia.org]. It's high enough that you need rockets to get there, and it provides a good ride. My reading of the press releases is that this is a brief stopping point along the way to 110km, which will involve the same airframe shape, but with added lightness and oth
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        The article casts it as a race to be the first commercial venture delivering passengers to space though. It isn't. Nobody has any plans to beat Scaled Composites and Virgin to space. These guys are only planning to be half way there when SC/V launch their service.
  • So they are saying it won't litter debris across several Southern states when it burns?
  • Thats the question ./ers will need to know.
  • Two words: Transparent Aluminum. Those windows are so damn small.

Money will say more in one moment than the most eloquent lover can in years.

Working...