If you want proof spaceplanes are closer to commercial travel than ever before, here it is ...
China’s making a knockoff version.
According to the New Scientist, a state-backed firm is working on an aircraft that will compete with in-the-works models from Virgin and SpaceX by offering commercial trips to the edge of space. The one-piece, winged rocket that Beijing’s China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology is constructing will have the capacity to carry up to 20 people and take off and land without help. In addition to being able to bring small satellites into orbit, the ship could carry its passengers about 80 miles above earth at Mach 8 while providing nearly four minutes of weightlessness.
The flights — which are projected to be “very attractive” to “bosses and businessmen” — are expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000, and test runs should be completed in two years. While the design for the liquid methane- and liquid oxygen-fueled spaceplane sounds ambitious at best and crazy at worst, a delegate at the International Astronautical Congress who is familiar with CALVT’s plan told New Scientist that the project has a real shot of getting off the ground.
“From an engineering standpoint, all the spaceflight operations the Chinese team suggest have been proven before,” the anonymous source told the publication. “Whether they can do it safely, however, and make a viable suborbital business out if it, is another question.”
We'll probably let someone else take the first test flight.