One Ticket to Space, Please

A small California-based private aerospace company, called “XCOR Aerospace”, has announced the development of what could be the first “consumer-oriented” suborbital spaceship. According to the company, the aircraft, which was named “LYNX”, is scheduled to be launched in just two years’ time. The company plans to provide affordable “front-seat rides to the edge of space” and to become pioneers of the emerging space tourism market.

Lynx with people for scale - Illustration (Credit: XCOR)
Lynx with people for scale – Illustration
(Credit: XCOR)

The two-seat spaceship, which is just about the same size as a small private airplane, was designed to carry space tourists on trips during which they will be able to experience weightlessness and to have a look at the Earth and its atmosphere from above, while seeing only stars from the opposite window. The scientists say that the LYNX will be able to perform several round-trips a day, bringing millions of people within reach of the common dream to “be an astronaut” when they grow up.

“The Lynx will offer affordable access to space for individuals, researchers, and educators,” said XCOR CEO, Jeff Greason. “Future versions of Lynx will offer ever-improving capabilities for scientific and engineering research and commercial applications.” Greason added that LYNX’s liquid fuel engines will not only provide enhanced safety, but will also be more durable, reliable, and maintainable – key features to keeping operating costs low. “These engines will also minimize the impact of these flights on the environment. They are fully reusable, burn cleanly, and release fewer particulates than solid fuel or hybrid rocket motors”, he said.

XCOR Aerospace has been specializing in the development of reusable and non-toxic rocket propulsion systems and has already successfully built and flown two rocket-powered aircrafts. In 2005, their “EZ-Rocket” vehicle was officially certified by the National Aeronautic Association as the record-breaker for “longest distance without landing”, after flying 9.94 miles from Mojave to California City. “The Lynx builds on our track record in rocket-powered vehicles,” says Greason. “By addressing profitable near-term markets, the Lynx will strengthen the financial and technical foundation for increasingly capable future spaceships for suborbital and orbital markets.”

Lynx Flight Profile (Credit: XCOR)
Lynx Flight Profile (Credit: XCOR)

Greason says the main challenge currently lies in lowering the cost of spaceflight, and in making space accessible to everyone. “[It] means far more than breathtaking views and the freedom of weightlessness,” he says. “It means unlocking the material and energy resources and economic opportunities of our solar system for our children.”

“Lynx will be the ‘Greatest Ride Off Earth,’” said XCOR Test Pilot, Former Pilot Astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander, Col. Rick Searfoss. “The acceleration, the weightlessness, and the view, will provide you with an experience that is out of this world. And the best part of it all is that you’ll ride right up front, like a co-pilot, instead of in back, like cargo.”

TFOT has previously covered a number of innovative spacecrafts, such as “Armadillo Aerospace’s” lunar vehicle, which participated in the 2007 Wirefly X Prize Cup. You can also check out an article on the revolutionary “Mini-Mag Orion” propulsion system, which promises to shorten round trips from Earth to Mars from two years to only six months, and will enable our spaceships to reach Jupiter in just one (!) year of space traveling. The Lynx will soon be up against a different commercial spaceship called “Space Ship Two”, developed by the U.K. Company Virgin Galactic. In the more distant future, private spaceships will take us onboard commercial space hotels such as the one currently under development by Bigelow Aerospace.

More information on the LYNX spaceship can be found here. You can watch an animation of the vehicle here.

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