Another spacey thing I support is a British company called Starchaser Industries. They are building a commercial space tourism vehicle.
It was founded by a man called Steve Bennett who used to build small rockets and launch them from Morcambe Bay in the north of England.
In 2000 he entered The X-Prize. This is a competition set up to award $10m to the first people who could launch a vehicle to a height of 100km with 3 passengers, land, then re-launch with th same equipment only 2 weeks later. It is a prize for cheap, re-useable space travel! http://www.xprizefoundation.com/
Starchaser has a fantastic model for their vehicle, but they dont have the serious money needed. They raise their money through events and sponsorship. They have a membership ( of which I am a proud memeber) but this sort of cashflow means they can only work on one item at a time; enigine, then guidance, then excape capsule!./ It is not a very quick way of doing it. Steve has designed his own engines called Churchill! They have worked brilliantly in his smalled rockets (only 30 feet high!). I saw a test in a carpark where he got the Churchills burning for so long and so hot that he melted the asphalt, lol!! He has recenlty bought a plot of land in New Mexico and has opened Starchasers first Spaceport. We just need the spacecraft now. http://www.starchaser.co.uk/
However the X-Prize was won last year by a man called Burt Rutan and his vehicle SpaceShip-1. Congratulaions to Burt. It is a fantastic achivement, but I must point out that Burt had a backer. A man named Paul Allen. You may or may not have heard of him but he helped found a little known company called Microsoft with his college buddy William Gates III. Paul is worth about $15billion and pumped over $30m into SpaceShip-1 to help it win a $10m prize! And as we have now heard SS1 bearly got over the 100km mark and was a bit un-steady in its flight. But thats not who History will remember. I spoke to Steve Bennett once about it and he said that with £2m he could have had a shot at the record but Starchaser just didnt have that sort of money.
But the plan still continues. The X-Prize was such a sucess that they are doing an annual X-Cup, for achievement towards cheap space travel for all, and Starchaser is there every year. Richard Branson from Virgin has bought into Burt Rutans business and intends to offer flights into orbit in 2008 for about $125,000. Cheap but nowhere in the reach of most people. Starchaser is aiming for a cheeper flight than that. And a rocket is intrinsically a more safe design than SS1. Starchaser's Nova1 (their vehicle) has an escape module on it; a little rocket on the top that blasts the command module away in case of danger. ss1 doesnt.
The US Airforce defines an astronaut as someone who has passed 100 km. Nova1 climbs to 130km so everyone who flies in it can call themselves an astronaut!!! Before I die I will be able to fly a plane and call myself an astronaught. Even if I have to sell the flat to do it, lol
I will leave the final word to Steve Bennett. It may explain why this is one of the most important things I want to do.
Everyone at Starchaser Industries shares the dream of space travel and we are working toward providing you with a truly unique and memorable experience.
When you launch with Starchaser you'll have the Experience of a true Astronaut.
- Outfitted in an authentic spacesuit you'll head down the access ramp toward the Starchaser rocket, as clouds of vaporizing LOX shroud the launch pad.
- You'll climb into the capsule and be strapped securely into your seat to wait for the action to start.
- The dramatic countdown will begin, filling your mind and body with anticipation.
- As you hear the roar of engines coming to life, the rocket propels you upwards with a kick.
- Your body becomes one with the vibration of the rocket as it accelerates, quickly breaking the sound barrier and beyond.
- You'll be pushed back into your seat and feel the awesome power within every fiber of your being.
- The rocket engines shut down and everything will go silent.
- Coasting silently upward you'll feel a slight jolt as the capsule separates from the booster.
- And as you look out of the porthole and see the Earth below... you will know that you have achieved your dream...