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$50 Million for an Orbital Flight

Published by admin on Thu Sep 30, 2004 1:30 pm
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Taken from AVWeb
Wednesday’s flight was used as the launch pad for an even more ambitious private space race. Hotel chain owner Robert Bigelow is sponsoring a $50 million prize to the first team to put into orbit a private spacecraft carrying five to seven people. Published reports say Bigelow will put up at least half the money himself in an attempt to develop vehicles that can dock with a new inflatable space station he’s developing near Las Vegas. NASA is reportedly helping out in the development of the space station. Bigelow’s announcement ran along side news of a collaboration between Virgin Airways founder Sir Richard Branson and the SpaceShipOne creators for a new commercial space venture. Two days before yesterday’s launch, Branson announced the creation of Virgin Galactic, a company that plans to build five SpaceShipOne-inspired ships to start routine space tourism flights. Branson said he’s been thinking about the concept for 10 years but the Paul Allen/Scaled Concepts project cracked the technological barriers. American Mojave Aerospace Ventures ships would carry up to five passengers on suborbital flights, but Branson said orbital flights and establishing a space hotel are also on his mind. He hopes to have the first paying customers (at about $200,000 each … start you bake sales, now) on suborbital flights within three years. Rutan said the first two commercial passengers would be himself and Branson. Also in the works is an annual X Prize Cup event and … a reality television show.

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