Rocketplane XP

Rocketplane Global, based in Burns Flat, Oklahoma, is currently taking reservations for suborbital spaceflights on the Rocketplane XP. The company has already spent 10 years working on the design. The XP spaceplane will carry one pilot and five passengers on suborbital rides, beginning in 2010, using a conventional-looking airplane with dual afterburning J-85 turbojets and a single rocket engine. One passenger will pay $250,000 to ride in the copilot's seat, while the other four will pay $200,000 each to be regular passengers.

The XP will not rely on a mothership but will leave the runway like any airplane, powered by its own jet engines. The afterburning turbojets will allow the XP to reach an altitude above 40,000 ft before the rocket engine has to be ignited, thereby lengthening the amount of zero-G time and enhancing the suborbital spaceflight experience. It will incorporate a T-tail at the rear of the 44-ft fuselage and weigh only 20,000 lb at take-off. Its single Rocketdyne RS-88 engine will generate 36,000 lb of thrust, providing a good thrust-to-weight ratio for the nearly vertical climb into suborbit. The trajectory will take the XP beyond 330,000 ft, the official space demarcation line. Rocketplane XP will burn liquid oxygen and kerosene in the rocket engine, and kerosene in the turbojets. Maximum speed will be just over 3,500 ft/s, or about 2,400 mph at rocket engine cut-off. Upon return to Earth, the jet engine will power back up at about 30,000 ft and bring the XP spaceplane back to the same spaceport that it took off from. The eventual goal is to one day reach the developmental stage of the advanced orbital spaceplane.3

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