August 23, 2012
Credit: Credit: XCOR
XCOR Aerospace, one of a handful of U.S. firms developing suborbital spaceships, plans to build its vehicles and fly tourists, researchers and commercial payloads from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, officials announced on Thursday.
The privately owned firm, currently based in Mojave, California, is developing a two-seat suborbital space plane called Lynx that is expected to debut by early 2013.
The company expects to fly four times daily, at a cost of $95,000 per person. The Lynx flights are similar to rides being offered aboard SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot vehicle owned by Virgin Galactic, a U.S. offshoot of Richard Branson’s London-based Virgin Group.
Virgin Galactic, which is selling rides for $200,000 per person, plans to fly from a new spaceport outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. Its first vehicle is undergoing testing in Mojave by manufacturer Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.
Both spacecraft take off horizontally -- Lynx by its own engines and SpaceShipTwo from beneath a carrier aircraft -- then rocket themselves about 63 miles (100 kilometers) above the planet’s surface before plunging back through the atmosphere.
The thrill ride gives fliers a few minutes to float in microgravity and a view of the Earth set against the blackness of space.
XCOR intends to fly Lynx from California, as well as Florida and several other sites around the world, primarily in partnership with companies and space agencies, similar to how airline manufacturers lease planes and pilots under so-called “wet lease” agreements.