Today’s Bakersfield Californian profiles two companies that are competing with Virgin Galactic to fly space tourists, namely Interorbital Systems and Benson Space. Both have Mojave ties: Interorbital is located at Mojave Airport and Benson Space plans to do testing at the airport. The same airport, of course, is home to Scaled Composites, which is developing SpaceShipTwo for Virgin and will host the initial flights of the vehicle, at least until Spaceport America in New Mexico is ready.
Given all the publicity surrounding Virgin Galactic, why would someone sign up with another company? Tim Reed, a Missouri businessman, says he’s getting a good deal: for $250,000 Interorbital will give him an orbital flight, versus the $200K for a Virgin suborbital flight. Interorbital believes that the suborbital market “will dry up” once cheap orbital flights are available, which is quite possible (depending on how cheap suborbital flights become in the process). The problem, though, is you have to develop a vehicle that can provide cheap orbital flights first, and as the article notes, “while the Mojave firm has developed detailed plans and conducted several rocket engine tests, no actual rocket for space tourism has yet been built.”