Space Tourism

DEMAND FOR space tourism was determined by a study conducted by Zogby International for the Futron Corporation which published the Space Tourism Market Study report in 2006. The results of this study in respect of passenger interest and demand forecast for suborbital space tourism are shown in the graphs reproduced overleaf.

The Futron study provides a projection of demand based upon responses to a number of factors such as length of training, economics, and the public's willingness to pay. In reality, the popularity of space tourism will also be driven by factors such as ticket prices, launch failures, space qualification requirements, infrastructure development, and the qualities of the companies offering suborbital access. The following section takes a look at some of the front runners in the suborbital space race.

I Below: SpaceShipOne glides down for approach to the Mojave airport during an early test flight. Image courtesy Scaled Composites, LLC.

I Below: SpaceShipOne glides down for approach to the Mojave airport during an early test flight. Image courtesy Scaled Composites, LLC.

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Suborbital Companies Virgin Galactic

Since SSI's epic flights, Richard Branson's Virgin group and Scaled Composites have signed an agreement to form The Spaceship Company, with the aim of constructing a fleet of commercial suborbital spaceships, including five SpaceShipTwo's (SS2) and two White Knight Two's (WK2).

2006 Passenger and Revenue Forecast

Above: Passenger Interest and Demand Forecast for Suborbital Space Tourism. Graphics courtesy Futron Corporation, see

Below: On 4 October 2004 SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of328,000 feet twice within a 14-day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize. (The first of the two X-Prize flights had been completed successfully on 29 September 2004.) In addition to meeting the altitude requirement to win the X-Prize, pilot Brian Bin-nie also broke the 22 August 1963 record by Joseph A. Walker, who few the X-15 to an unofficial world altitude record of354,200 feet. Brian Binnie's SpaceShipOne flight carried him all the way to 367,442 feet or 69.6 miles above the Earth's surface. Here the White Knight turbojet climbs with SpaceShipOne under its belly. Image courtesy Scaled Composites, LLC.

The first Virgin Galactic SFPs will pay US$190,000 for their suborbital ticket, a price that will include a pre-flight medical assessment and a three-day pre-flight training program, a component of which will be a parabolic flight. During take-off, SFPs will be in the spacecraft which will be attached to the mother ship until an altitude of 50,000 feet is reached at which point the countdown to release will commence. Shortly after the rocket motor ignites, passengers will be travelling in excess of three times the speed of sound as the vehicle heads towards space. As engine cut-off occurs passengers will experience microgravity and will be able to perform any number of aerobatic manoeuvres or simply look out of the windows and admire the view.

RocketPlane Kistler (RpK) Aerospace Corporation

Formed in 2001 to develop, build, and operate a vehicle capable of succeeding in the suborbital space tourism market, RocketPlane Kistler

Bigelow Nasa Nautilus

(RpK) has assembled a formidable team headed by Chief Executive Officer, George French, a previous winner of the NASA AMES Research Astrobiology Team Group Achievement Award and the National Space Society's Entrepreneur of the Year Award. President, retired Colonel Randy Brinkley, served as NASA Program Manager for the International Space Station (ISS), as well as Mission Director of the Hubble Space Telescope Repair Mission. RpK's resident astronaut is Commander (USN Ret.) John Herrington, RpK's Vice President of Flight Operations and Services. It will be Herrington who pilots the winner of a Microsoft Corp. sponsored competition ( on their trip to space. Before that happens though, RpK has to achieve its goal of bringing its Rocketplane XP to operational status.

The Rocketplane XP, due to enter service in late 2007, will carry four persons (one pilot and three passengers) to an altitude in excess of 330,000 ft (100 km) and provide them with at least three minutes of microgravity. The spacecraft, which utilizes the fuselage structural concept of the Lear Jet 25 series, will take off from a runway at the Oklahoma Spaceport and use jet engines to climb and accelerate to a subsonic cruise altitude of 40,000 feet (12.2 km). At this altitude the pilot will switch to a liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket engine that will burn for 70 seconds. The rocket-propelled portion of the flight will result in a 3-G pull-up to suborbital altitude followed by a ballistic coast to mission altitude and a return to base in unpowered flight.

XCOR Aerospace

XCOR Aerospace, founded in 1999, is located at the Mojave Spaceport and Civilian Test Centre in Mojave, California. Though the company may not have the financial resources of other budding suborbital companies it certainly has an impressive team. President and co-founder, Jeff Greason, holds 18 patents and was cited by Time magazine in 2001 as one of the "Inventors of the Year" for his team's work on the EZ-Rocket.

M Above: RocketPlane Kistler (RpK) Aerospace Corporation's conversion of a Lear Jet 25 series business jet into a passenger-carrying rocket ship - the RocketPlane XP - would be a spaceflight first. Graphic courtesy RocketPlane Kistler.

M Above: RocketPlane Kistler (RpK) Aerospace Corporation's conversion of a Lear Jet 25 series business jet into a passenger-carrying rocket ship - the RocketPlane XP - would be a spaceflight first. Graphic courtesy RocketPlane Kistler.

Dan DeLong, XCOR's Chief Engineer, served as lead engineer for Boeing's Life Support Systems Internal research development program, as Principal Engineer at Boeing Defense & Space, and as an engineering analyst in the Life Support group that developed the ISS air and water recycling systems. XCOR's test pilots, astronaut Colonel Rick Searfoss and Dick Rutan, are perhaps the most experienced employees of any suborbital company. Rick Searfoss's credentials include serving as pilot on STS-58 and STS-76, and Shuttle Commander for STS-90, while Dick Rutan is famous for flying the Voyager aircraft around the world non-stop with Jeana Yeager, in an aircraft designed by his brother, Burt Rutan, of Scaled Composites fame.

XCOR is currently developing its piloted rocket operations demonstrator aircraft, the EZ-Rocket, which serves as a manned technology demonstrator for its Xerus craft. The testing of

I Above: In 2001, Time Magazine named the EZ-Rocket as a "Transportation Invention of the Year." In December 2005, on its 25th flight, the vehicle set the world record for distance without landing for any ground-launched rocket-powered aircraft. Image courtesy XCOR Aerospace.

Right: Three views of the Xerus spacecraft, a single stage suborbital vehicle capable of servicing three markets: microgravity research, space tourism, and microsatellite payloads. Images courtesy XCOR Aerospace.

the EZ-Rocket has provided XCOR with valuable experience concerning rocket-powered flight and has allowed the company to push ahead with the design of the Xerus craft, a single stage suborbital spacecraft that will be capable of providing service to markets such as space tourism and micrograv-ity payloads. The Xerus is being designed to take off and land from a conventional runway without the need for a carrier aircraft such as the SSI configuration. XCOR plans a flight test program of approximately 20 flights, each flight incrementally extending the operational envelope.

Commercial Orbital Flight Operations

Though several companies have stated their intention of conducting orbital flight operations, only two are close to fulfilling this goal: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Bigelow Aerospace (BA).

Space Exploration Technologies

Located in El Segundo, Southern California, near Los Angeles airport, SpaceX aims to offer light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to LEO using a suite of launch vehicles. SpaceX's founder, Elon Musk, an internet mogul turned spacecraft builder, created the company in 2002 with what he refers to as "non trivial assets". In September 2006, SpaceX was announced as a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition, and received an award of US$278 million for three flight demonstrations of the Falcon 9 carrying the Dragon spaceship.

If SpaceX is successful with its launch manifest it may win ISS resupply business worth between US$300 and US$500 million per year following the shuttle's retirement in 2010. In addition to potentially servicing NASA's needs, the Dragon may also be of service to BA with whom SpaceX has an ongoing dialogue to ensure that Dragon meets the human transportation needs of Bigelow's planned space station as efficiently as possible.

Top: The Falcon 9 launch vehicle, and the cargo and crew versions of the Dragon spacecraft. Images courtesy SpaceX.

I Left: The view from Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis I Pathfinder inflatable module in Earth orbit. Its successful launch on 12 July 2006 put the company as many as five years ahead in a schedule that will see fare-paying passengers embarking upon orbital travel as early as 2010. Image courtesy Bigelow Aerospace.

Bigelow Aerospace

In 1999 Robert T. Bigelow founded BA, a general contracting, investment and development company focused on realising economic breakthroughs in the costs associated with the design, development and construction of manned space habitats and launch facilities. Contrary to media reports Bigelow, who made his fortune as a general contractor and founder of Budget Suites of America, says he is not pursuing "space hotels" although he is interested in leasing his habitats, some of which may ultimately serve as a space hotel. To date he has spent more than $75 million of his fortune and is prepared to invest up to $500 million by 2015 with the goal of

I Above: Artist's concept of the first planned commercial space complex by Bigelow Aerospace. The complex includes the Sundancer module, planned for launch in 2010, docked with a propulsion bus and node to be launched in 2011. Connected to that backbone are two BA 330 'Nautilus' modules, each of which are planned to have 330 cubic meters of workable space. BA is aiming to have the first complex completed by 2013. Image courtesy Bigelow Aerospace.

Inset: Artist's concept depicting possible future application of the BA330 'Nautilus' module, i.e. a 'corporate yacht'. Image courtesy Bigelow Aerospace.

full-scale deployment of a manned space habitat. To achieve this Bigelow has obtained exclusive licences on inflatable technologies and docking systems as well as multiple Space Act agreements with NASA.

Of all the private space companies, BA is clearly ahead of the pack when it comes to making good on its promise to deliver orbital access. The launch of the company's Genesis I Pathfinder module on 12 July 2006 represented a new chapter in the development and business of space, and signalled to the world that the space race is no longer the exclusive domain of government aerospace industry. How did Bigelow do it?

Inflatable Habitat Technology

The core of BA's operations is the use of inflatable habitat technology which forms the basis of each module. The sub-scale module, Genesis I, is the result of pioneering work by Bigelow, NASA and various subcontractors in the development of lightweight but extremely strong and long-lived inflatable modules made of proprietary advanced aerospace materials. The inflatable module technology, previously known

The technology was tested by NASA at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) but ultimately the project was cancelled in 2000, although testing continues at JSC. The BA 330 'Nautilus' module, which is planned to have 330 cubic meters of workspace, is a unique hybrid structure that combines the mass efficiency of an inflatable structure with the advantages of a load bearing hard structure. It includes a bladder, a restraint layer and micrometeoroid/orbital debris (MMOD) shell layers that form a structure that is stronger than the ISS!

I Above: Two artists' concepts depicting possible future applications of the BA 330 'Nautilus' module. (Top) A 'Moon cruiser'. (Left) A space station module. Images courtesy Bigelow Aerospace.

The almost two dozen layers of the Nautilus module provide insulation against space temperatures that can range from +121oC in the Sun to -128oC in the shade. These layers also provide protection against MMOD by the use of successive layers of Nextel (a material commonly used as insulation under the hoods of cars) and several-inches thick open cell foam. To test the shield, the University of Dayton Research Institute and the University of Denver Research Institute conducted more than fifty ballistic tests that fired particles of 6.4 - 12.7 mm towards the shield at velocities of between 3.1 and 6.9 kilometres per second.

Other layers are composed of super strong woven Kevlar that holds the module's shape and Combitherm, a material used for the bladder (of which there are three) construction.

The BA 330 Nautilus Inflatable Module

Weight at launch (tonnes)

Length at launch (m)

Diameter at launch (m)

Diameter after inflation (m)

Inflated volume

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