Virgin Galactic vs. XCOR: Two Very Different Approaches

Space Up Houston August 2011 from Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. on Vimeo.

Virgin Galactic’s Will Pomerantz and XCOR Aerospace’s Khaki McKee both gave updates on their companies’ suborbital vehicles during the recent Houston SpaceUp conference. For the benefit of those who don’t have time to watch the full video above, I’ve summarized their presentations below in a convenient side-by-side table to allow for an easy comparison.

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SwRI Scientists Prep for Suborbital Science Missions

SWRI — PR Boulder, Colo. — July 25, 2011 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) announced in February that it had contracted multiple suborbital flights for its own astronaut payload specialists as part of a larger effort to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight. Preparations for these flights are proceeding and will be flown on a combination SwRI manifest of XCOR Lynx I and Virgin Galactic SpaceShip2 vehicles. The Lynx I missions will reach altitudes of about 200,000 feet; the SpaceShip 2 missions will reach altitudes near 350,000 feet.

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XCOR’s Lynx to Fly Suborbital Observatory

PSI PR — The Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and XCOR Aerospace have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that lays the groundwork for flying the human-operated Atsa Suborbital Observatory aboard XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft.

The Atsa project will use crewed reusable suborbital spacecraft equipped with a specially designed telescope to provide low-cost space-based observations above the contaminating atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems.

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SwRI Purchases Six XCOR Lynx Flights

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

XCOR/MOJAVE, Calif. — In a first for the reusable suborbital launch vehicle industry, XCOR Aerospace announced today that the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a commercial entity, has purchased six suborbital flights to carry SwRI experiments and payload specialists.  This is the first such contract SwRI has issued, and XCOR is proud to be chosen for this opportunity.

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Suborbital Spotlight: XCOR’s Lynx Space Plane

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist has published detailed information about suborbital vehicles that will be available beginning in 2011 for researchers to conduct microgravity experiments. The vehicles are being built by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR.

Today we will look at XCOR’s Lynx vehicle.  The two-seat suborbital vehicle is being assembled in Mojave, Calif. for its first test flight next year, with commercial operations following as early as 2012.