The scrappy space start-up Xcor Aerospace is ready to begin selling tickets to tourists who have a hankering to soar 37 miles up to the edge of space, the company announced today. It also presented its first paying customer, whom they hope to send up in 2011: Danish investment banker Per Wimmer, who will pay $95,000 for his suborbital flight. Wimmer seems enthusiastic about Xcor’s plans, but he’s certainly hedging his bet. He is so keen to leave earth’s atmosphere that he has bought another two tickets to space, one with Virgin Galactic and one with rival firm Space Adventures. “It will be a real race to see which of them goes up first – but if it is Xcor, I will become the first affordable space tourist,” he said [Daily Mail].
In the small world of private space companies, Xcor is considered a cheap, no-frills provider. The announced ticket price is about half the $200,000 cost of a suborbital flight aboard Virgin Galactic‘s deluxe SpaceShip Two. That vehicle is expected to bring six passengers aloft at a time, and may let them float around the cabin during the five minutes of weightlessness they’ll experience at the apogee of their flight, 62 miles above the earth’s surface. In contrast, Xcor’s small suborbital vehicle, the Lynx, is a two-seater, and the one paying passenger will stay strapped into the copilot’s seat.
A rocket-powered plane trailing a bright blaze of flame streaked across the Wisconsin sky yesterday, as spectators at the EAA AirVenture air show got the first glimpse of a new sport called rocket racing. But in a setback, the Rocket Racing League wasn’t able to send two rockets soaring into the sky to race against each other as hoped, as the Federal Aviation Administration is still in the process of approving the second aircraft.
[T]he Rocket Racing League is aimed at melding human spaceflight with NASCAR-like competitions in the sky. The racers are designed to belch 15-foot (4.5-meter) flames from their engines that can be easily seen by spectators, and carry limited amounts of rocket fuel to fly through a three-dimensional aerial race course [SPACE.com]. League officials hope to eventually let onlookers follow the planes’ progress through the looping flight path by projecting videos from cockpit cameras onto huge screens, and are also hoping to build a computer game in which players could race against the real pilots.