A London based company has kicked off the first phase of development of a sub-orbital space plane for 44 passengers and hopes to start commercial operations by 2018.
Despite not having raised the targeted amount of money through a crowd-funding website Indiegogo, the London-headquartered start-up believes their ‘space for all’ concept has a future as it revolutionises the yet not existent sub-orbital travel industry, reducing the price of the ticket to a fifth of the amount charged by the pioneering company Virgin Galactic.
“In 18 months we hope to achieve the qualification stage, to get a seal of approval for our design and move forward towards building the actual spacecraft,” said Rob Lowe, the company’s IT director and head of operations in the UK at the Space Commerce Summit in London.
The major innovation enabling accommodating up to 44 passengers lies within the innovative decoupling technology. The passengers would be seated in spherical pods designed to carry four people. The pods would be placed in special fairings, four in each, located on three floors of the spacecraft.
In a case of emergency, a pyrotechnic mechanism will disassemble the spacecraft, releasing the pods, leaving them to descend safely to Earth on parachutes.
“The core of SHIPinSPACE design is safety. In the past, there have been several tragic disasters and had there been such mechanisms in place as ours, the lives of those astronauts could actually have been saved,” Lowe said.
Fabrizio Boer, the company’s CEO and chief designer, has been carrying the idea of a reusable ‘people’s spaceplane’ in his mind for about ten years.
Having several years of experience in the rocket industry, working on the development of Europe’s Ariane rocket and in the International Space Station programme, he and the team believes there is nothing to stop them from achieving the ambitious goal of commencing commercial operations in only five years.
Headquartered in London, SHIPinSPACE is the first sub-orbital tourism company operating from the UK. Despite planning to undertake large portions of the technology development in Italy, the company is looking into possibilities to be eventually launching from British soil.
“Isle of Man has a very thriving private space sector and we thought that in case they will decide to start operating a spaceport, we would definitely be interested,” said Lowe.
Offering tickets for $50,000 plus £10,000 for two years of training prior the flight, the company envisions flying once a week, using the time between the flights to make the reusable plane ready for the next launch.
“After the return to Earth the ablative material damaged during the re-entry will be stripped down and refurbished for the next flight,” Lowe explains.
Offering 6 minutes of weightlessness at the peak altitude, the SHIPinSPACE spacecraft will work similarly to the Space Shuttle, launching in a vertical position and landing like a plane.