Rocketplane Global Plans Point-to-Point Suborbital Travel in Hawaii

Jeff Foust has an interesting piece in The Space Review about Rocketplane Global’s plan to launch point-to-point suborbital travel between two Hawaiian islands.

Rocketplane Global vice president Chuck Lauer discussed his company’s plans to operate its XP suborbital spaceplane from Hawaii as the first of its “secondary” spaceports it would use after its home base in Oklahoma. However, instead of taking off and landing at the same airport, as it would in Oklahoma, the XP would take off from one island and land on another. “It will be the first licensed point-to-point suborbital spaceflight corridor,” he said. “You’re not taking off and landing at the same point.”

Under the notional plan Lauer discussed at the conference, the XP would take off under jet power from Kona International Airport on the Big Island and, after igniting its rocket motor for the suborbital part of the flight, land on Oahu. While Honolulu International Airport would be one possible landing site, Lauer said later that an alternative was Kalaeloa Airport, the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station on the west side of Oahu. The total trip length would be about the same as flights from the Oklahoma Spaceport, where the XP would take off and fly away from the spaceport before turning around and flying the suborbital part of the flight on the way back. “It’s essentially the same total ground track that we fly in Oklahoma, except that we’re taking the hairpin and unfolding it into a straight line,” he said.

The big issue, as always with Rocketplane, is funding. Lauer admits that the environment is tough given the economic climate, but he says that international investors are interested. If funding can be found, Rocketplane could start service in 2011 or 2012.

Foust’s story take a look at potential point-to-point markets (package delivery could be a bigger market than tourism) as well as the U.S. military’s SUSTAIN effort, which aims to create suborbital vehicles capable of quickly deploying strike teams anywhere in the world.

Read the full story.