EADS getting into the space tourism market?

An article in the Sunday Times of London reports that EADS Astrium will announce this week plans to provide suborbital space tourism services. The article is short on details, although EADS is apparently looking at a suborbital vehicle that would reach 100 kilometers altitude, with a per-ticket cost similar to Virgin Galactic’s going rate of $200,000. One possibility is that EADS will offer an air-launched solution using the freighter variant of the A380 super jumbo jet as the carrier aircraft, something reported back in April by Flightglobal.com and this month by Engineering News.

The Times article breathlessly claims that “Europe is to enter manned space travel for the first time” because of this project, but that’s a debatable claim. Even if EADS does go ahead with this venture, there are already ventures at least partially based in Europe that may get there first: besides Virgin Galactic (which eventually plans to operate out of Kiruna, Sweden), of course, there’s Starchaser, which is based in the UK although with growing operations in the US. There’s also ARCA, the Romanian effort that competed for the X Prize and continues work at some level; it even calls itself “The European Private Manned Space Program”. There have also been a number of other European proposals and studies in recent years. The advantage EADS has, though, is that it has financial resources that no one else save Virgin can bring to bear on this, if it chooses to do so.

3 comments to EADS getting into the space tourism market?

  • Garrett Smith

    I doubt the A380 being used as a carrier aircraft for a commercially viable space tourism operation. Operations costs for the A380 would add an additional cost burden to the suborbital flight. It would make more sense to do a piggyback launch from an A330-Freighter that could be leased on a daily basis. The same A330 Freighter could be modified to perform parabolic flights in order to compete with Zero Gravity’s 727, if the legal issues are resolved to permit parabolic passenger flights.

    The FlightGlobal article talks about “serial launching” from a rear door of the A380 freighter. The A380 freighter is not a military aircraft with a rear ramp, but rather a commercial aircraft with a side door. Major structural modifications would be necessary to adapt the A380, greater than modifications to an A330.

    I also have trouble understanding why passengers would want to be constrained to launching with another group. I would be a very upset passenger if my flight were cancelled due to a minor technical glitch or other problem with the first spacecraft which was supposed to launch.

  • EADS getting into the space tourism market?…

    Some analysis on reports that EADS is about to enter the suborbital space tourism business using a freighter version of the A380 as a carrier aircraft….

  • [...] actual vehicle design is somewhat different from the Rocketplane XP.) It also appears that those earlier reports about the use of an A380F as a carrier aircraft turned out to be [...]

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