- Oklahoma-based Rocketplane Kistler is one of Virgin Galactic's biggest competitors. Rocketplane Kistler, whose main investor is American businessman George French, hopes to start test flights next January and fly commercially by next summer. French owns several businesses including a space education company in Wisconsin.
The company is building a souped-up, 42-foot-long suborbital Lear jet that can seat three passengers and a pilot. Unlike SpaceShipTwo, which would piggyback atop a mothership to a certain height, the Rocketplane XP would take off and land like an airplane using turbojets and rockets.
Space Adventures, a Virginia-based space travel agency best known for brokering three tourists to the international space station, is the latest entrant.
Last month, Space Adventures announced a partnership with members of the Ansari family – the major funders of the $10 million X Prize won by SpaceShipOne – to develop Russian-designed suborbital rockets that would launch from a proposed spaceport in the United Arab Emirates by 2008.
PlanetSpace, backed by American businessman Chirinjeev Kathuria, is building a 54-foot-long, three-seat suborbital rocket that would launch from somewhere in the Great Lakes region and re-enter Earth by splashing into the water. It hopes to fly 2,000 passengers in the first five years, beginning in 2008.
"It's like an upside-down bungee jump"
That's how Jon Logsdon of the Space Policy Institute describes what a trip into suborbital space will feel like. Tourists could be catapulted into space as early as next year and Futron, a Bethesda, Md.-based aerospace consulting firm, estimates that revenues in the space tourism industry could exceed $1 billion a year by 2021. Who will be taking us into space? We've heard a lot about the Rutan-Branson team behind Virgin Galactic, but there will be other companies too: