Headlines > News > Spaceports: Blasting Off Around the World

Spaceports: Blasting Off Around the World

Published by Rob on Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:19 am
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For most people, the idea of space travel is limited exclusively to either astronauts or fictitious movies and television shows. It’s true that many popular movies, such as Star Wars or Star Trek, have depicted space travel as a mode of transportation that is strictly made for science fiction movies – but the reality is that it’s not. Space travel, or the so-called space tourism industry, is a very real thing, and it will allow “regular” people the chance to travel through space.

The whole idea of space tourism is exciting for most people to think about, and the idea that space travel may soon be on the same level as commercial air travel in terms of accessibility and popularity, is even more exciting to think about. Today there are already companies out there that are basically “space travel agencies”, and with their services, you can book your flight to outer space. One of the largest companies of this kind was founded in 1998 and based in Virginia called Space Adventures.Before you run out to book one of these one-of-a-kind private space travel experiences, you had better have some money in the bank to finance the space trip, because they’re not cheap! The first official space tourist was Dennis Tito who reportedly payed $20 million for the ticket. Tito was blasted to outer space aboard the Soyuz spacecraft en route to the International Space Station. His flight left in May of 2001 with the Russian Space Agency providing the transportation approximately 189 – 248 statute miles up into space. These days, that same trip costs about $30 million to climb aboard the 3 person spacecraft, and it’s booked solid through 2009.

Spacecrafts for these flights into space are being designed and built as we speak. Here’s a short list of some of the innovative spacecraft designed for commercial space travel: Soyuz spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo, WhiteKnightTwo, Cosmopolis XXI. On average, these spacecraft will reach speeds of Mach 3, they’ll fly 360,000ft, or 68.18 miles high, and the entire flight will last between 1 – 3 hours with seating for only 5 or 6 people.

As space tourism continues to become ever more affordable, so demand and accessibility grows, and thus, we are seeing spaceports popping-up around the world. In many ways, these new spaceports are like typical airports, except for the fact that they are launchpads to outer-space. Many spaceports being constructed today are privately owned and financed, while some will be sponsored by the government of their respective countries. Many new spaceports are planning to begin launching travellers into outer space within the next year or two. Costs for these flights are estimated to be in the $200,000 range, and in most cases the flight will last about 1 hour. So is there a spaceport near you? Lets find out!

Spaceport America, New Mexico

America

Spaceport America, New Mexico

Spaceport America:On April 4, 2006 workers broke ground on the $225 million, 100,000 square foot spaceport in New Mexico that is to be called Spaceport America. This is the first commercial spaceport in the United States that was actually built from scratch rather than being converted from an airport and is the rumoured future venue for the annual X Prize Cup spaceflight competitions. The first rocket launched from Spaceport America in September, 2006 was unsuccessful; it lost control after launch and crashed. The second voyage was successful in April, 2007. This launch sent a rocket into outer space with a primary payload of cremated human remains. The first companies that will actually be using this revolutionary spaceport for commercial space travel are UP Aerospace, Zero-G Space, Starchaser Industries, and Virgin Galactic. Sir Richard Branson will reportedly make this his primary spaceport for his fleet of Virgin Galactic spacecraft.

United Arab Emirates Spaceport, Near Dubai

Emirates Spaceport

United Arab Emirates Spaceport, Near Dubai

United Arab Emirates Spaceport: This planned spaceport will be located in Ras Al-Khaimah which is about an hour drive from the popular tourist destination of Dubai, and should be operational within the next couple of years. The estimated $265 million spaceport will be funded by various parties including the government, and the USA-based space travel company, Space Adventures. A leading Russian aerospace organisation by the name of Myasishchev Design Bureau has designed a spacecraft called the Explorer which will be one of the spacecraft stationed at the UAE Spaceport. The Explorer is based on the design of the Cosmopolis XXI spacecraft, and it will seat a total of 5 passengers.

Mojave Spaceport, California

Mojave

Mojave Spaceport, California

Mojave Spaceport: The Mojave Spaceport in California was the first spaceport (2004) in the United States to be approved by the Federal Aviation Agency as a spaceport to be used for the horizontal launches of reusable spacecrafts. It was also the location of the famous Ansari X space race where spaceports competed for a $10 million prize to see who could fly a spacecraft a minimum of 62.5 miles into the air at least 2 times within a week. Mojave Spaceport is also one of the locations where billionaire Richard Branson will fly his Virgin Galactic fleet of spaceships. Virgin Galactic is scheduling space flights for next year, and within a couple of years they hope to be flying 1 – 2 flights into space per day. With the support of Virgin Galactic, the Mojave Spaceport will be one the largest and busiest spaceports in the world. As Mojave Spaceport is near Hollywood, and it’s such a wide-open area, a lot of action movies have been filmed here including Die Hard 2, Dragnet, S.W.A.T., and (strangely) Waterworld.

Oklahoma Spaceport, Oklahoma

Oklahoma Spaceport

Oklahoma Spaceport, Oklahoma

Oklahoma Spaceport:The Oklahoma Spaceport received approval from the FAA in 2006 to begin the initial steps toward their goal of providing space tourism services to the public. This revolutionary spaceport is located on a 2,700 acre site and features one of the longest runways in North America at 13,503ft by 300ft wide. Oklahoma Spaceport even features an on-site golf course, so you can play a quick round while you’re waiting for your flight into space. They’ve teamed-up with Rocketplane/Kistler (RPK) to provide the Oklahoma Spaceport with a full-service space tourism company. Rocketplane is scheduled to begin test flights of their reusable spacecraft called the K1 in late 2008. The K1 is a vertical launch spacecraft that is 121ft in length, 22ft in diameter and weighs in at a hefty 845,000lbm at liftoff. This ship is powered by liquid-propellant engines that are designed to be reused 100 times before needing to be replaced. The K1 is not the only spacecraft that will use Oklahoma Spaceport as a launch site, but it will be one of the first. If all goes well with testing, the Oklahoma Spaceport should be fully operational within the next couple of years.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Virginia

MidAtlantic Spaceport

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Virginia

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport: MARS was the third spaceport in the United States to be approved by the FAA for commercial space travel. While Virginia isn’t aggressively pursuing a full-service private spaceport used for space tourism, they certainly are interested in converting the MARS into that type of facility. There’s a lot of money to be made in the developing space tourism industry according to Futron Corp, an aerospace consulting firm. They estimate that by 2020, space tourism will generate 13,000 passengers and $700 million in revenue annually. Experts say that MARS will need about $30 million of upgrades to the spaceport in order for it to be properly equipped for the space tourism industry. Many people believe that Wallops Island, Virginia is the ideal location for a commercial spaceport used for space tourism because it’s located right on the Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Spacecraft are launched out over the ocean, which makes it safer for people inland during launches.

Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska

Alaska

Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska

Kodiak Launch Complex: This spaceport is located on 3,717 acres of land that is owned by the state. The Kodiak Launch Complex was completed in 2000 at a cost of about $40 million. It’s located at Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island, which has hosted 12 launches since 1998. There haven’t yet been any commercial flights into outer-space from Kodiak Spaceport, but the facility is fully-equipped for such a mission. The Kodiak Launch Complex is an ideal spot to launch commercial spacecraft because it’s in such a wide-open and desolate area.

Baikonur Spaceport, Kazakhstan

Baikonur

Baikonur Spaceport, Kazakhstan

Baikonur Spaceport: This spaceport, located in Kazakhstan along the Syr Darya river, is the world’s oldest space launch facility and is actually leased by the Russian Space Agency through 2050. Baikonur was where the first ever space tourist was launched into space enroute to the International Space Station (ISS) back in 2001. There have been 4 other space tourists who have been successfully launched into orbit from Baikonur Spaceport, and these individuals have paid as much as $20 million for the opportunity to do so. Currently, this is the place to go if you want to plan a trip into space. Flights can be purchased through Space Adventures, located in Virginia, to climb aboard the Soyez spacecraft for a flight to the ISS. Just make sure you can cover the cost of the ticket for this flight, which can be as much as $30 million. FYI: We’re not the only ones hoping Borat has nothing to do with Baikonur!

Spaceport Sweden, Sweden

sweden

Spaceport Sweden, Sweden

Spaceport Sweden: The plan for Spaceport Sweden is that it is to be the primary European spaceport in terms of space tourism, in the future. The inauguration of this spaceport, located in Northern Sweden, took place on January 26, 2007. Spaceport Sweden has already signed an agreement with Virgin Galactic to be the main spaceport to be used by the company outside of the United States. Esrange Spaceport has their first space tourism flights into space scheduled for 2012. They claim that their spaceflights blast straight through the Aurora (the northern lights), which provides a beautiful backdrop on the way up into space.

Spaceport Singapore, Singapore

Singapore

Spaceport Singapore, Singapore

Spaceport Singapore: This new spaceport is a proposed $115 million facility scheduled to be completed in 2009. The Spaceport Singapore will be a state-of-the-art aeronautical facility which features an education center, a four-day camp for children, astronaut training facility, and much more. The spaceport complex will be spread over 183,000 square feet in East Singapore. Officials estimate that the spaceport will generate about $3 billion in revenue over a 10 year period. There will be a couple of different ways to experience space travel at Spaceport Singapore. They will offer sub-orbital space flights that blast passengers 62 miles above the earth’s surface and last about 90 minutes with 5 minutes of weightlessness – all at a cost of about $102,000. For about $10,000 you can opt for a parabolic flight which doesn’t actually go into space, but you still can experience the feeling of weightlessness.

Corn Ranch Spaceport, Texas

Corn Ranch

Corn Ranch Spaceport, Texas

Corn Ranch Spaceport:The Corn Ranch Spaceport is located on 165,000 acres (66,774 hectares) of desolate land in West Texas, and it’s owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. Jeff’s plan, dubbed Blue Origin, is to make space travel affordable and safe for the public. The first test flights at Corn Ranch Spaceport were conducted in November, 2006 and were a success. The Blue Origin plan involves the use of a spacecraft called the New Shepard which is a vertical take-off, vertical-landing spacecraft. Once testing is complete, Bezos hopes to fly about 1 flight per week in the New Shepard spacecraft starting in 2010.

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