For eight years, they thundered aloft in cramped Russian spacecraft from a former Soviet spaceport in Kazakhstan, battling bureaucracy and gravity to blaze a trail across the heavens and redefine what it meant to be a space traveler. No longer would access to orbit be limited to highly trained astronauts chosen on merit and working on behalf of their nations; instead, space would be open to any sufficiently healthy people with enough money and moxie to qualify.
After $18 Million, RocketPlane Only Launched Empty Promise for Oklahoma OK Gazette
A drive by the Will Rogers World Airport is all one needs to know something has gone awry. Along Amelia Earhart Drive sits the office of Rocketplane, home to what might have been Americaâ€™s first commercial space flight passenger company. Based out of the Oklahoma City office for nearly five years, engineers and executives plotted and tested their plans for building a rocket ship.
But today, the doors are locked, the windows are dark and a â€œFor Leaseâ€ sign stands outside the office.
â€œThe problem is no longer, â€˜is it feasible,â€™â€ said [Rocketplane CTO Dave] Faulkner, â€œitâ€™s simply a matter of getting the money.â€ But considering the condition of the financial markets, there is no telling when the company will be able to get the funding needed to make the XP a reality.
â€œThe technical side of it is outstanding,â€ said [former astronaut John] Herrington, adding that the engineers had done remarkable work. â€œBut if you canâ€™t get investors to step up to the plate, you canâ€™t build what you want to fly.â€
“A French air hostess will become one of Europe’s pioneer space tourists after picking a chocolate wrapper out of the rubbish and finding a winning number in a competition to fly to the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere…
“[Mathilde Epron] will receive four days of astronaut training in Oklahoma City in the United States before boarding the Rocketplane XP aircraft which will reach an altitude of 100 km (60 miles) and allow a five-minute experience of weightlessness.”
When precisely that will be is unclear; Rocketplane XP has yet to even conduct a test flight.
The lineup for Space Access ’08 in Phoenix has been released. The event, to be held at the Best Western Grace Inn,, will feature Jim Muncy of PoliSpace; Misuzu Onuki, of Rocketplane LLC; Jon Goff; Dallas Bienhoff; Frank Zegler; Henry Spencer; and Rand Simberg.
Among the companies and government agencies confirmed include: Armadillo Aerospace, FAA AST, Flometrics, Frontier Astronautics, Masten Space, Space Studies Institute; SpeedUp, Unreasonable Rocket, and XCOR Aerospace.
For more details, visit the Space Access Society website.
Air & Space Magazine has a piece on efforts to make sure that space tourists are well dressed in everything from futuristic pressure suits to wedding dresses. Rocketplane’s Misuzu Onuki and Orbital Outfitters’ Rick Tumlinson are featured. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has hired superstar designer Philippe Starck.