With the rapid development of the spaceplane - strictly suborbital in its first incarnation - there will be a rush to upgrade ordinary airports to spaceports. This will carry a certain prestige value, which is always good for business. Eventually, spacelines will not only offer space tourist rides, but also offer suborbital hops taking passengers to neighboring states or countries. As with space tourism, the first of these flights will be motivated by the fun factor. They will be joy rides, in essence. Soon, however, people will realize that there is real value in the suborbital flight. Critical materials, such as organs destined for transplant, time-sensitive documents, or diplomatic pouches, will find their way aboard the suborbital spaceplane. The concept of same-day mail could take off. International rescue workers could be quickly space-lifted to the scene of some disaster, in a manner reminiscent of The Thunderbirds.
Airports around the globe, at this point, will begin applying for upgrades to the status of spaceport. The first suborbital "range flights" will be relatively short. Spaceplanes will take off from runways in southern California and land in Las Vegas. Others will depart Spaceport America in New Mexico and land within a few hundred miles. Over time, the range of the suborbital spaceplane will increase until it is hopping from continent to continent.
Once these suborbital vehicles have advanced to the status of true SSTO spaceplanes, the first destinations will be "space hotels" in low Earth orbit. These will be inflatable habitats pioneered by companies such as Bigelow Aerospace. The space experience will then be greatly enhanced by the luxurious accommodations awaiting the eager space tourist some 200 miles above Earth. A suite of zero-G activities
will be available, with possibilities limited only by the imagination. Travelers will have their choice of tour packages, some electing to stay "overnight," which will include a dozen or more sunrises and sunsets, others choosing to stay longer. There will be "quickie cruises" lasting 12 h or eight orbits around Earth, all the way up to weekly or even monthly packages, each priced accordingly. For the return to Earth, travelers will be offered their choice of landing sites as well. In this way, their space vacation may start in America and end in Australia, for example. Spaceplanes, with their large cross-range reentry ground-track capability, will be ideally suited to offer such choices to their customers.
Peering a little further into the future, the Lunar spaceplane will drop off its passengers at an Earth orbital resort while it goes to refuel at a nearby depot. After several hours, the spaceplane will return, pick up its passengers, and "light off" for the Moon. The first Lunar spaceplanes will not land on the Moon, but will instead transfer passengers and cargo to crablike Lunar shuttles (Fig. 9.14) based there permanently. Later, the advanced Lunar spaceplane will demonstrate the ability to land on Luna itself, as we will see in the next chapter. The Lunar tourist will follow closely on the heels of the ordinary orbital tourist, because the Moon offers a whole new set of fun-filled vacation opportunities. When that day arrives, honeymoons will never be the same.
Was this article helpful?