Imagine the flight New York to Tokyo and you probably think of being cramped in an airplane seat for the better part of a day. Well according to an interview between XCOR and the Huffington post this image might have an expiry date. The California based company XCOR is foreseeing the possibility for flights between New York and Tokyo via outer space and believe this may become reality in 20 years. XCOR is currently developing the Lynx suborbital vehicle which will take spaceflight participants on a flight to the edges of space.
Currently, commercial flights between New York and Tokyo are thirteen and a half hours long but XCOR’s spokesman Bryan Campen predicts this could be reduced to a flight time of 90 minutes. This future commercial service builds upon precursor technologies found within XCOR’s Lynx vehicle which is scheduled to begin testing in 2013.
The Lynx vehicle is a 2 seat rocket plane which can utilize conventional airport runways for horizontal take off and landing. “This approach is unique compared to most other [Reusable Launch Vehicles] in development,” says the company’s website. This approach is what makes it easy to transition to point-to-point flights, since there are many more take-off and landing options than spacecraft that require dedicated facilities. Lynx Mark I, a development prototype, is designed to fly to an altitude of approximately 61km. This is to be followed by the Lynx Mark II designed to reach an altitude of 106 km and scheduled to enter commercial service by the end of 2014.
Lynx will be capable to perform up to four flights per day and is able to use standard airport facilities for its operations like a conventional airplane. Tourists will have to pay the approximately $95 000 for the privilege of liftoff, boost, free fall, re-entry and landing over the course of a 45 minute flight. The pilot and the passenger will experience a few minutes of weightlessness.
XCOR has been building interest and awareness of their vehicle through a number of high profile tickets awarded to Mercedes Becerra and a NASA scientist who have each won flights aboard the Lynx. In the interest of building public confidence in the safety of such flights, Virgin Galactic chief Richard Branson announced last July that he and his children will be some of the first passengers onboard Branson’s own suborbital spacecraft, Spaceship2. But in a reminder of how many things can go wrong in suborbital flight, Do-It-Yourself suborbital venture Copenhagen Suborbitals’ Kristian von Bengston recently explored the myriad of ways to perish aboard their DIY spacecraft. With handfuls of companies getting into the spaceflight business, it is to be hoped that safety will remain a top priority.
Below, XCor discusses the Lynx experience: