SpaceDev, a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation, is developing a very cool looking seven-seater spacecraft called Dream Chaser, designed to launch astronauts into space using the by now well-established Atlas 5 rocket. Think of the spacecraft as a mini-shuttle – it’s about four times smaller and based on designs that NASA and Russian engineers experimented with in the 80’s and 90’s, using on-board propulsion systems derived from SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid rocket motor technology – technology being designed and developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) for Scaled Composites. No word as of yet about cost for potential passengers, but the primary Dream Chaser Space System mission is to provide NASA with a safe, reliable commercially-operated transportation service for crew and cargo to the ISS and back to Earth and not just to carry out low Earth orbital flights.
Closer to reality, SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) will be happy to fly you into low Earth orbit in their Dragon capsule, launched on top of their Falcon 9 rocket as soon as 2015. But as if that isn’t exciting enough yet, Elon Musk announced that he will be looking to send people to Mars for a cool half a million dollars – not too bad when you put it in perspective. It will be a trip of months, not hours at only a few times the cost of a low orbit ride. Elon Musk might truly be the real Tony Stark – where is the suit though? SpaceX confirmed in 2012 that their target launch price for crewed Dragon flights is $140,000,000 which means a solid $20,000,000 per seat if the maximum crew of 7 is aboard – still about 3 times cheaper than Soyuz but cheap it is not!
If you are looking for the feeling of weightlessness without actually becoming an astronaut and losing a fortune doing so, then there’s an astronomically cheaper option out there. Zero Gravity Corporation (also known as ZERO-G) is an American company in Virginia that offers flights aboard a cargo plane that goes into a parabolic arc. This way, it actually simulates weightlessness for its passengers, at a mere $4,950, plus tax. A flight lasts 90 to 100 minutes, and consists of fifteen parabolas, each of which simulates about 30 seconds of reduced gravity: one that simulates Martian gravity (one third of Earth’s), two that simulate Lunar gravity (one sixth of Earth’s), and 12 that simulate weightlessness. That’s value for money if you ask us!
Next time, what is Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos up to, and more!