View Full Version : Rocketplane shoots for space trips by 2007

The Horned God
Thursday, June 30th, 2005, 05:36 PM


Hybrid spaceship and spaceport taking shape in Oklahoma.

Rocketplane Ltd.
The Rocketplane XP hybrid spaceship, shown in this artist's conception, would be powered by conventional jet engines in the pods at the back, and a rocket engine in the tail.

An Oklahoma space-travel company says it is aiming to win the race to put paying passengers on suborbital trips, with commercial flights scheduled to begin by early 2007.

"We intend to make it a five-star experience," said David Urie, vice president of Rocketplane Ltd.

Urie discussed his company's ambitions this week during a meeting of the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority and a follow-up telephone interview with MSNBC.com.

Rocketplane is working on the plans to convert a twin-engine LearJet into a hybrid space plane. The Rocketplane XP craft would use a jet engine to take off from the former Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base at Burns Flat, Okla., which has the country's fourth-longest runway. When the plane reaches an altitude of 22,000 feet, a rocket engine in the tail would kick in shooting the pilot and two passengers above the 62-mile (100-kilometer) mark, which is considered the boundary of outer space.

From that height, the fliers could see the earth's curvature beneath the blackness of space then come back down for a conventional horizontal landing.

He pointed out that the LearJet model to be converted already has been certified for an altitude of 51,000 feet, and that the pressure difference between that height and the 62-mile mark was "about one-tenth of an atmosphere." For the craft's rocket engine, Rocketplane has selected the Rocketdyne RS-88, a pressure-fed liquid oxygen/alcohol-fueled thruster, Urie said.

"We'll provide maybe three to four minutes of a sensation of weightlessness between the time the rocket shuts down and you encounter thick air again," Urie said. The flight itself would last about 45 minutes, but the tour package would also include four days of health tests and training, plus an after-flight banquet.

The company has a marketing agreement with Florida-based Incredible Adventures and is negotiating another nonexclusive deal with Virginia-based Space Adventures to sell seats, he said. The tour packages would be priced in the $150,000 to $200,000 range, he said, but the company has not determined when they'll go on sale.

Thursday, June 30th, 2005, 06:09 PM
Lets hope it works better than a certain other XP I don't care to name... Sure, not as bad as a millennium edition, but it still ain't no Linux.