future space ships
XCOR Aerospace's Lynx is a two-person suborbital space plane designed to take off and land on a conventional airport runway. In addition to flights with paying passengers, the rocket-powered vehicle is being designed to carry scientific experiments on brief research flights. XCOR has already signed a deal with the Southwest Research Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Boulder, Colo., to fly some of its scientists and experiments to suborbital space.
The six-passenger SpaceShipTwo is Virgin Galactic's entry into the suborbital spaceflight field. Like Lynx, SpaceShipTwo is designed to ferry tourists, researchers and their experiments. And like XCOR, Virgin also holds a contract with the Southwest Research Institute for scientific flights. SpaceShipTwo will be carried to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) by a mothership known as WhiteKnightTwo. At that point, the spacecraft's rocket will kick on, boosting SpaceShipTwo up to 62 miles (100 kilometers) or so above Earth's surface.
Armadillo Aerospace, a Texas-based company founded by computer game entrepreneur John Carmack, is developing a vertically launched spaceship for suborbital flights.Armadillo's spacecraft will have room for two passengers. The space tourism firm Space Adventures is booking seats on the craft for $110,000 each. An Arizona man recently won a free flight on the vehicle in a contest sponsored by Space Adventures and Seattle's Space Needle, though the date of his trip has yet to be set.
The Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace designs and builds large, expandable habitats that it aims to link up in orbit, creating private space stations.
Bigelow has already launched two prototype test habitats into orbit, one in 2006 and one in 2007. The company's current module, the six-person BA 330, provides about 11,650 cubic feet (330 cubic meters) of usable volume. Bigelow envisions joining at least two BA 330s together in space.