Commercial Spaceflight

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After watching the new series on the Discovery Channel "When We Left Earth" and "The Dark Side of the Moon", I became enthralled with the majesty of orbiting above earth with a front row seat to the cosmos as a back drop. So, when will private spaceflights be possible for an average person? Just to go up make a few orbits and come back down would be spectacular and once in a lifetime experience.
 

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  • #2
LowlyPion
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With the price of energy rising and the supply of hydrocarbons per capita on the decline, a better question might be how much longer the ordinary person will be able to afford to drive to the store using gasoline.

As to getting to space for say a Low Earth Orbit excursion you might want to consider these costs. The source cited below suggests that commercial payload costs are averaging $3600-$4500 per lbs.
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=301

These numbers look like they come from this citation:
http://cost.jsc.nasa.gov/ELV_INTL.html [Broken]

Unfortunately these numbers seemingly predate $20/ bbl of oil (2001) and while these vehicles don't exactly use gasoline you can likely expect that fuel costs for lift off have some correlation with overall energy costs.

Using a figure of $15,000 per pound and multiplying by your weight, I'd suggest that if this is less than your equity in your home, then you just might be able to afford to go on a LEO tour.

Then of course there is the cost of getting back that is not at all accounted for. Oh well, so the kids will need to get scholarships.
 
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  • #3
DaveC426913
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After watching the new series on the Discovery Channel "When We Left Earth" and "The Dark Side of the Moon", I became enthralled with the majesty of orbiting above earth with a front row seat to the cosmos as a back drop. So, when will private spaceflights be possible for an average person? Just to go up make a few orbits and come back down would be spectacular and once in a lifetime experience.
Not in our (or, at least, my) lifetime. But if we're lucky, the price of a suborbital straight-up-and-down shot might be affordable in the next couple of decades.
 
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Two articles about commercial space flights.

"SpaceShipOne cracked the barrier to manned commercial space flight in June by flying 328,491 feet, or about 62 miles, above Earth — about 400 feet above the distance scientists widely consider to be the boundary of space. The flight lasted 90 minutes."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6115258/
http://www.commercialspaceflights.co.uk/

I watched something on Discovery about this. I think its kind of like a jet that takes off from a landing strip rather being launched. Expensive airfare though, 208,000$ that should take care of energy costs. Doesnt look like its gonna make a few orbits on flight but im sure you get a damn good view of the cosmos at a height of 62 miles. However for 208,000$ you probably dont even get to experience zero gravity. Anyways looks like commercial space crafts will be available in my lifetime, will i be able to afford it in my lifetime? Probably not :(
 
  • #5
LowlyPion
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Actually seems a bit of a bargain the way petro prices are rising recently.

I wonder would that 208,000$ include refreshments and an in-flight meal?
 
  • #6
FredGarvin
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While Spacedhip One was a great feat by a civilian company, it is nowhere near being able to put something into orbit and stay there. Spaceship One was the equivalent of throwing a rock up in the air and having it come back down. No disrespect intended to Mr. Rutan, but please put his achievement in perspective.

Space flight like you are talking about won't happen in our lifetime. The cost is prohibitive (of course) but the safety issue will still have to be addressed. There would not be any kind of transport available to the general public until it has a margin for safety equivalent to current air transport.
 
  • #7
DaveC426913
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However for 208,000$ you probably dont even get to experience zero gravity.
You experience several minutes of freefall.
 
  • #8
D H
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Commercial plans by various private corporations include
  • $200,000 or so for a suborbital flight.
  • A million or so for an orbital flight.
  • Several million for a stay in a space hotel.
  • One hundred million to fly around the Moon.

These ventures obviously are not targeting the "common man". They are looking for ways to help make the wealthiest people just a little bit less wealthy.
 
  • #9
NateTG
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Space flight can be a lot cheaper than that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Dragon_(rocket [Broken])
"The rocket would have been able to carry a payload of up to 550 metric tons into low earth orbit. Payload costs were estimated to be between $59 to $600 per kg, which is much less than today's launch costs. TRW conducted a program review and validated the design and its expected costs, apparently a surprise to NASA."
 
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  • #10
D H
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Space flight can be a lot cheaper than that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Dragon_(rocket [Broken])
"The rocket would have been able to carry a payload of up to 550 metric tons into low earth orbit. Payload costs were estimated to be between $59 to $600 per kg, which is much less than today's launch costs. TRW conducted a program review and validated the design and its expected costs, apparently a surprise to NASA."
Emphasis is mine.

Comments:
  • It is not quite fair to compare 1962 dollars to 2008 dollars.
  • It is just plain wrong to compare the cost of getting unpressurized payload to orbit to the cost of getting humans to orbit. Human-rated launch vehicles are inherently a lot more expensive than simple launch vehicles.
  • That design has two huge single points of failure -- the single thrusters on the first and second stages. No astronaut, let alone a millionaire, would ride such a beast.
  • My list in post #8 is about commercial ventures. None of these ventures is considering using vehicles built by traditional NASA launch suppliers.
 
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