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1. VIRGIN GALACTIC: Virgin Galactic hopes to be the first private space tourism company to regularly send civilians into space. SpaceShipTwo is the class of space vehicle that the first paying customers will use and it appears it will likely be named the VSS Enterprise.

In the UK if you mention space tourism then Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is certainly the company most people could name. The Virgin brand recognition is one of the highest, and most positively regarded. With an enduring association of pioneering adventurism from Richard Branson himself and a business seen as technologically ‘cutting edge’. It seems a natural step forward from Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Galactic for the future of air tranport. The space tourism of today will likely become the basis for sub-orbital commuter transport of the future.

The complete space flight is a two stage process. SpaceShipTwo is initially docked with the much larger EVE, the Virgin Mothership. The combined craft (pictured above) takes off from the SpacePort like a traditional civilian jet aircraft and climbs to the near edge of space. At this point SpaceShipTwo, with its lucky spacebound occupants, separates from EVE. Then, using its exceptionally safe hybrid rocket motor SpaceShipTwo is propelled into a controlled space orbit. After a weightless experience of a lifetime the new space travellers glide back to the SpacePort runway.  

Virgin Galactic is not just about getting people into space, the additional launcherOne platform is also ideal for the commercial realities of space, satellites and payloads. Essentially LauncherOne takes the place of SpaceShipTwo and is docked with EVE, the Virgin Mothership in much the same way. The difference is LauncherOne is custom designed to provide an affordable, dedicated ride to orbit for smaller payloads. No longer will small satellite users be forced to make a choice between the limitations of flight as a secondary payload or paying dramatically more for a dedicated launch vehicle, or dealing with the added complexity associated with export control requirements and international travel to distant launch sites. A new generation of lower cost micro satellites with all sorts different uses can be launched, essentially creating whole new markets.

 SpaceShipTwo docked under the EVE Mothership

 SpaceShipTwo

4. Bristol SpacePlanes   

A current design pioneer with these three clear designs

2. XCOR   http://www.xcor.com

The Lynx is XCOR’s entry into the commercial reusable launch vehicle (RLV) market.  This two-seat, piloted space transport vehicle will take humans and payloads on a half-hour suborbital flight to 100 km (330,000 feet) and then return safely to a landing at the takeoff runway.

Like an aircraft, Lynx is a horizontal takeoff and horizontal landing vehicle, but instead of a jet or piston engine, Lynx uses its own fully reusable rocket propulsion system to depart a runway and return safely.  This approach is unique compared to most other RLVs in development, such as conventional vertical rocket launches and air-launched winged rocket vehicles “dropped” at altitude from a jet powered mothership, such as Virgin Galactic.

Andrew Nelson, president of the California-based company, XCOR, said that 300 people had already booked for a spaceflight experience aboard its Lynx spaceplane. The two-seater plane takes-off under rocket power and has room for a pilot and a paying passenger. The company is offering half hour sub-orbital flights to 100km and plans to begin commercial flights in the US in 2016.

"I understand the desire to have a Scotland site, but we also like Newquay," Nelson told the Guardian. "Lynx has a pretty good business case with 100 to 150 days of sunshine, but it can do science and research missions too. They don't care if they can see the ground or not."

BRISTOL SPACEPLANES ASCENDER

THE LEADING SPACE TOURISM AND PAYLOAD DELIVERY COMPANIES.

PLEASE NOTE: These companies produce, or plan to produce the kind of vehicles that would use the Cornwall Spaceport. None are confirmed to use any particular location in the UK or have shown any location preference.

1.Virgin Galactic, uses a design able to carry a payload into space as well as paying customers so is also capable of offering fairly low cost satellite deployment.

2. XCOR Space may be described as the most pure design. One vehicle capable of runway take off, rocket powered ascent and then a glide return to the takeoff runway. Both for space tourism and payload delivery. Still at the advanced testing and development stages.

3.Skylon is a design for a single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane by the British company Reaction Engines Limited (REL), using SABRE, a combined-cycle, air-breathing rocket propulsion system, potentially reusable for 200 flights.

4. Bristol SpacePlanes is probably the most ambitious project. 3 designs serving 3 distinct purposes. Very much at the development stages.

5. SPACE X - A Vertical take off space vehicle which can deliver both space tourists and payloads into space.

Other companies are also offering space tourism options based on vertical takeoff rocketry only or existing Russian operations.

Armadillo Aerospace: Founded by the computer-game entrepreneur John Carmack, the Texas company will one day take travellers aloft in a vertically launched rocket ship.

Boeing Crew Space: With backing from NASA and the Virginia-based Space Adventures (the company that books billionaires on Russian-spaceship trips), the commercial aircraft giant has built a mock-up of a U.S. space capsule that may one day take tourists to the International Space Station.

MORE DETAILS ON THE OPTIONS 1 to 4 BELOW

5. SPACEX: http://www.spacex.com/dragon

SPACEX is one of several private companies who are essentially replacing NASA’s day to day activities, such as delivering cargo and supplies to orbiting destinations such as the International Space Station. However, they have made clear overtures to the business of space tourism. However their designs are far more traditional rocket than horizontal take of and landing Spaceplane.

Founded by serial inventor Elon Musk, the California company ultimately wants to help people establish colonies in space. It is building its own reusable rockets and space capsules that will one day take people to other planets, beginning with Mars. SpaceX just successfully launched its first commercial satellite on Dec. 3. The launch heralded the company’s move toward adding more commercial space flights to its existing slate of partner missions with NASA, helping it supply the International Space Station in the post-space shuttle era.

Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations. Dragon made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth, a feat previously achieved only by governments. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans. Under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew. Dragon's first manned test flight is expected to take place in 2-3 years.

The pressurized section of the spacecraft, also referred to as the capsule, is designed to carry both cargo and humans into space. Towards the base of the capsule but outside the pressurized structure are the Draco thrusters, Dragon's guidance navigation and control (GNC) bay and Dragon’s advanced heat shield.


 LauncherOne

3. Skylon: http://www.reactionengines.co.uk

Skylon is a design for a single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane by the British company Reaction Engines Limited (REL), , a combined-cycle, air-breathing rocket propulsion system, potentially reusable for 200 flights.

The vehicle design is for a hydrogen-fuelled aircraft that would take off from a conventional runway, and accelerate to Mach 5.4 at 26 kilometres (16 mi) altitude using the atmosphere before switching the engines to use the internal liquid oxygen (LOX) supply to take it into orbit. Once in orbit it would release its payload of up to 15 tonnes. The vehicle will be unpiloted, but also be certified to carry passengers. All payloads could be carried in a standardised container compartment. The relatively light vehicle, its skin protected by a ceramic composite, would reenter the atmosphere and land on a runway. When on the ground it would undergo inspection and necessary maintenance. If the design goal is achieved, it should be ready to fly again within two days.

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UK-based company Reaction Engines is developing a fully reusable, single-stage to orbit, unmanned spaceplane called SKYLON. It will use a pioneering engine design known as SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) that will enable it to reach five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) in air-breathing mode and then accelerate to Mach 25 (18,000 miles per hour) for orbital insertion. It will take off from a runway and transition from air-breathing to rocket propulsion at an altitude of 80,000 feet (26 kilometres). Proposed initial uses for SKYLON are to launch satellites and carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), carry spaceflight experience participants, or transport astronauts to the ISS, in a specially designed pod within the existing cargo bay.

OVERVIEW OF CURRENT SPACEPLANE COMPANIES (MORE DETAILS BELOW)