Space Access relaunches

It’s almost like a flashback to the 1990s. Space Access LLC, a company that dates back to the mid-1990s, formally announced its plans Thursday to provide suborbital space tourism flights starting in 2011. Back in the 1990s Space Access was proposing a spaceplane that could launch satellites or carry cargo to the ISS. The company is still pushing a spaceplane, now with a current focus on suborbital commercial human spaceflight, although the company does plan to provide orbital flights starting in 2014.

One thing that sets Space Access apart from other companies in the business is its technology: it eschews rocket engines for something called an ejector ramjet that uses liquid hydrogen fuel but oxygen from the atmosphere. The company claims that the ejector ramjet is seven times more efficient than a rocket engine because the vehicle doesn’t have to carry its own oxidizer. The company also claims that this approach is more “environmentally conscious” since liquid hydrogen doesn’t create carbon emissions and can be generated from renewable energy sources (it does admit that hydrogen today primarily comes from petroleum refinement). The “Skyhopper” vehicle will also be fast: flying up to Mach 7, compared to the Mach 3-4 peak speed announced by other suborbital spaceflight ventures.

Another unique aspect of Space Access is that it is inviting prospective customers to South Florida for a series of seminars starting in January where they’ll “participate in the development of a revolutionary vehicle” by attending seminars about the vehicle development. All this will be at an “exclusive private resort” on Key Largo, south of Miami, near where Space Access has offices (although the company’s mailing address is Huntertown, Indiana, a suburb of Fort Wayne.) The cost? $7,200 per person [adjusted on Friday to “only” $3,600] for the three-day event (based on double occupancy).

The company’s FAQ features some more details about Space Access and its plans. The company proposes to build up to eight of the Skyhopper suborbital vehicles and performing 15 flights a day. Flights will take place from facilities the company calls “SpaceGateWays”, with the first to be built south of Corpus Christi, Texas (as reported last week). It’s an interesting new venture, but it’s entering a crowded market with a new set of technologies: a difficult challenge for any company in any field.

5 comments to Space Access relaunches

  • Randy Campbell

    According to the SA package website the price is $3600 per person based on double occupancy not $7200 just FYI :O)


  • Jeff Foust

    Randy: it appears they adjusted the price during the day Friday. When the site launched Thursday, and early Friday morning, the listed price was $7,200.

  • Peter

    Lockheed’s Skunkworks have been trying to build a hypersonic aircraft for years. (of course, for all we know they did and it’s TOP SECRET). Still, the SR-71 only went mach 3 but required an all titanium airframe with exotic metals here and there to keep it from melting. It also leaked fuel on the ground because they never found a sealer that could withstand the heat so it would take off with full fuel, leaking most of it while accelerating to mach 3 for just a few minutes to get warm enough to seal up the tank, then reduce to subsonic and meet up with an inflight refueler to fill the tank back up. A pilot only had about ten minutes to hook up with the refueler after slowing down… otherwise he’d run out of fuel and have to land dead stick… Many a pilot washed out of the program for this.

    SS1 only reached mach 3 just as it was leaving the atmosphere (and just returning) but this vehicle is going to skim the atmosphere. At mach 7 there is insufficient air above 160,000 no matter how big the intake is. Aerodynamic surfaces would be useless above 150,000. Since space is legally set at 328,000 the vehicle would have to fly a parabolic trajectory flying out of the atmosphere at mach 7 at a 45 degree angle.

    Hey if they can do it I’ll all for it but hypersonic vehicles are a challenge that Lockheed and Boeing have been working on and have been scared of for some time. If they can do it then it’ll be useful as a long range transport too like the Concorde.

  • […] follow-up to our earlier coverage of the re-launch of Space Access LLC: A Corpus Christi, Texas TV station reports that the company’s plans include an “an […]

  • Peter is right–this will not work. Anyone with a MSE would spot that.

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