Thirteen Years Of No Space Tourism

Today is the anniversary of the first spaceflight of SpaceShipOne. At the time, everyone expected its successor to be flying passengers before the decade was out. As we now know, that was over-optimistic, for a variety of reasons. But here are my blog posts from the event at the time.

11 comments on this post.
  1. Johnny B:

    The SS1 X-Prize win was one of the first things that drew me closer to private space, and got me excited for the future of such. It was one of the earliest instances of me streaming a space-related event at my desk at work, and I actually got away with it at the time.

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around
    a) how long ago that was
    b) how little progress has been made on private tourist space flight
    c) how MUCH progress has been made in a mere fraction of that time by SpaceX, Bigelow, Blue Origin, and others on reusability

  2. Ed Minchau:

    It isn’t 13 years of no space tourism. Five tourists have gone to the ISS in the 2004-2009 period.

  3. Astronist:

    Seven in the period 2001 to 2009, with one (Charles Simonyi) making two flights, for eight visits in all. Not really “tourists” (the term implies to me a regularity and ease of access which is not yet available), but certainly pioneering private passengers.

  4. Ed Minchau:

    Yeah, I was only counting the last 13 years.

  5. Astronist:

    Plus of course eight years of no pioneering proto orbital space tourism since Guy Laliberté visited the ISS in 2009 (30 Sept-11 Oct). Due apparently more to the stupidity of the space agency ISS partners than to a lack of demand.

  6. ken anthony:

    Over a decade with poor results? Time to do something else.

  7. gbaikie:

    I don’t think Virgin Galactic is going to try something else, and getting to point of flying over distance +500 km, may not be realized.

    But in terms trying something else, I still think launching water test payloads would work. And though I have mentioned it in awhile, still think a pipelauncher would work. Work in regards to sub-orbital and orbital launch. Or system of assisted boost and using ocean launch site. It would need testing and could take awhile to make it operational.
    Though rather than focus on the pipelauncher, one might focus on how one builds a pipelauncher- which starts from a dry dock.
    Or Sea Dragon needed a dry dock, also maybe other huge rockets could use dry dock, but one needs some kind of dry dock to make a pipelauncher- unless it just small or prototype thing.

  8. Laura Montgomery:

    When I was at the FAA one of our rulemaking cost-benefit analyses predicted about 10,000 launches by now.

  9. gbaikie:

    Why do you think the FAA was wrong?
    Do you think within next 10 years there will be 10,000 launches
    from US.
    It seems the main thing, is when will have first commercial launch,
    rather just test launch [which only New Shepard has had, or wiki: “Flights with test passengers are planned for late 2017, with commercial passenger flights to begin in 2018.”- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Shepard ]
    One could say the purpose of X-prize was to prove it was possible, but
    what “it’ was spacecraft which could do it in theory, but the actual commercial craft takes more effort. Same thing as first flying across Atlantic ocean, but that had larger market connected to it [and I would guess more people died related to getting that to point of it being a commercial activity].

  10. Godzilla:

    I have to say I never expected them to fumble this much with SS2 back then. I did hear some people who knew better say the hybrid rocket engine was a bad idea (also that N2O was a PITA to handle) (was it Henry Spencer?), but I thought, hey it worked on SS1 right? Well so much for that.

    Still, here are some nice old selective (hah) quotes from me:
    “Vertically built vehicles can better tolerate the loads on launch. Ideally the vehicle should land with the same orientation as the one used on launch in order to be less complicated (as do aircraft and helictopters). So the answer is… VTVL and small pads using skids or landing legs like a lunar lander.

    If you use a landing strip, you need one big enough. if you can land on the rough ground, you still need to go back to base for refit, using a chopper is useless if it weights too much, the best alternative is a descent onto the sea, where you can relatively easily be towed back into port by a boat. But there is still the issue of how much damage you get on the landing, etc. Hence why some insisted on using wings, so they could land on airstrips, etc. Of course a vehicle which lands vertically has no such issues.

    High energy density fuels (solid hydrogen, free radicals, fluorine based, boron based, etc) have been researched for yonks (since the 1950s) and nothing decent has come up. Some of the new nitrogen based explosives are interesting, but they will not beat LOX/LH2 or LOX/Kerosene in performance IIRC.

    Regarding composites, I think they are a bit overrated. Even without composites you could have done something much better than the Shuttle with current materials, that is for sure.”

    I said this stuff back in March 2005, here on this blog, back when I still had the nickname ‘Gojira’. Back then SpaceX hadn’t even got the Falcon 1 to fly properly. Hah. I guess I do get things right sometimes.

    If you want some futurology I also said this back then:

    “Regarding how to increase Isp more for a space launch vehicle, I see one possible solution. Putting the energy for escaping Earth gravity outside the launch vehicle.

    So how do you put the energy outside the launch vehicle? Beamed power. Even the elevator proposals seem to use beamed power instead of cables for powering the elevator.

    Needless to say, the current experiments in beamed power for space launch are still in the chemical rocket equivalent of the early Goddard experiments. Even if you had major funding, I suspect it would take a generation or two to get anything decent out of it.”

    If you want more info on this I was thinking of some sort of laser beam propulsion scheme, like ablative laser propulsion (ALP), with pulsed lasers. ISP can be 200 to 5000s depending on fuel type. I suppose a laser thermal rocket is another possibility but I am less sure about the thrust-to-weight ratio of such a solution for first stages. Of course *no one is working on it* sigh.

  11. ken anthony:

    I’m trying to come up with a guestimate of per colonist cost to mars using ITS. I get about $20m per and 2000 kg per.

    Anyone have better?