Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Jeff Foust

Space Adventures to Develop Suborbital Vehicles

The company announced a partnership that returns it to its suborbital roots and into a competitive market.

  • May 27, 2010

Long before Virginia-based space tourism company Space Adventures became synonymous with flying millionaires to the International Space Station, the company planned to open the market for suborbital space tourism. Today the company announced a partnership that returns it to its suborbital origins.

Eric Anderson (left), Space Adventures president and CEO,
and John Carmack, founder of Amardillo Aerospace, announce
a partnership at ISDC. Credit: Jeff Foust

Speaking at the International Space Development Conference in Chicago, Space Adventures president and CEO Eric Anderson announced that the company is partnering with Armadillo Aerospace, the Texas-based small aerospace company founded by famed game developer John Carmack, to develop a suborbital vehicle to carry customers to at least 100 kilometers altitude. The partnership, initially announced last month, is still in its earliest stages: both Anderson and Carmack said that the design of the vehicle is still to be determined, and they set no timetable for beginning flights.

Anderson did note that the suborbital flights will feature the same key elements of an orbital launch, merely in a condensed–and less expensive–fashion. “There are three highlights of the experience” of flying in space, Anderson said: the launch, weightlessness, and the ability to see Earth from space. “Those three items are all components of the experience that you will have when you fly with us and our partner.”

Space Adventures will face some strong competition for the still-emerging suborbital space tourism market, most notably Virgin Galactic, which is currently flight-testing its SpaceShipTwo vehicle and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. XCOR Aerospace is also developing a rocket-powered aircraft, called Lynx. Armadillo’s vehicles, by comparison, take off and land vertically. One selling point of the Space Adventures/Armadillo Aerospace venture is price: they plan on charging $102,000 a flight, compared to the $200,000 currently charged by Virgin Galactic.

Space Adventures, founded in the late 1990s, had its roots in suborbital tourism, on the belief such flights were just a couple years away. “We didn’t have any idea at the time that we would be fortunate enough to be able to launch private citizens to orbit before suborbital flights” by selling seats on Soyuz flights to the ISS. Now, he said, was the “right time” to go back to suborbital as Armadillo’s capabilities evolved to the point where a suborbital vehicle really could be flying in a couple years.

For Carmack, the partnership is an opportunity to accelerate his company’s work and focus it more on suborbital vehicles, after recent work that ranged from developing rocket-powered airplanes for the Rocket Racing League to technology development projects for NASA. He said the Space Adventures funding, coupled with more investment out of his pocket, will allow his company to double its current pace of development and keep it focused on spaceflight. “I want to build spaceships,” he said. “I want to be taking people to space.”

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Business Impact

How technology advances are changing the economy and providing new opportunities in many industries.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.