We’re not sure what is the greater planned accomplishment, the fact that a state-backed Chinese firm is hoping to take 20 tourists at a time into space, or that this spaceplane will do so “without any ground or on-board intervention.”
More than one company around the globe is gearing up for space tourism, and China wants in on the fun. Planning a craft that can act as a rocket and as a plane in a scalable design. Beginning on the ground positioned for a vertical launch, the rocket gets the craft up, which then glides back to earth as any space shuttle or high-speed airplane might do.
Ground testing is already under way at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing. Team leader Han Pengxin is optimistic that interest will be high enough to warrant $200,000 to $250,000 per person per flight.
$200,000 to $250,000 per person
The winged rocket design, specifically the idea of one craft sustainably self-powering itself from the ground into space, and back again, has many skeptics in the community. The project was announced in Guadalajara, Mexico last week for the International Astronautical Congress. Some admit that the project is technically possible, but may not be a sustainable business model, while others believe the spaceplane will require a boost skyward as many other low-orbit airplanes currently do, on the back of a larger aircraft.
Designs currently include a 10 tonne craft with 6 meter wingspan that would take five people up to 100KM altitude, providing 2 minutes of weightlessness. The larger craft bumps up to 100 tonnes, with a 12 meter wingspan providing 4 minutes of weightlessness at as high as 130KM of altitude.
Those seeking a thrill will also be treated to speeds of up to Mach 6 in the smaller craft and Mach 8 in the larger spaceplane. These are more than just high-speed hijinks, however, as the faster craft would be capable of helping deliver small satellites into orbit. Satellites would be attached with their own booster rockets, then launched from the top of the plane mid-flight. These deliveries are expected to greatly help finance this operation.
Wash and repeat, this spacecraft is expected to hold together safely for up to 50 flights.
The best news out of all of this, ground tests have been positive, and flight tests are expected to wrap up in just two years. This spaceplane could be launching out of a yet undetermined location in China by 2020, and humans could be tagging along for the ride as soon after that as the project is deemed safe.
With Virgin Galactic, XCOR and Blue Origin in the mix, not to mention the space endeavours of Elon Musk’s Space-X, are you excited for a government backed consumer space flight opportunity?