Credit: Mike Massee/XCOR
XCOR Aerospace announced today its plans to develop Lynx, a suborbital rocketplane. Lynx is similar in concept to XCOR’s earlier suborbital vehicle project, Xerus: a two-seat winged vehicle that takes off from a runway under rocket power, ascends to altitude, and glides back for a runway landing. Lynx, described as “roughly the size of a small private airplane”, will begin flights in 2010 and be able to fly multiple flights per day. The initial press release did not disclose the vehicle’s development cost nor whether the company had all the funds in hand to develop Lynx, although XCOR in the past has tended to be conservative in this area.
A few notes from the release:
- XCOR is careful in saying that the Lynx will fly “to the edge of space”, but not in space itself: the flight profile shows it reaching a peak altitude of 61 km, well short of even the minimal 80 km “boundary” used by the US Government for awarding astronaut wings. Whether that will be an issue for customers—who will still experience weightlessness and get a broad view of the Earth below—is unclear.
- The press release plays up space tourism as a market, noting that the vehicle “will provide affordable front-seat rides to the edge of space for the millions of people who want to buy a ticket”, although it does mention research and education applications. The images suggest there will won’t be any room in the cockpit for the customer to float around in; keep in mind that Rocketplane Global, planning to develop a larger vehicle, doesn’t plan to allow its passengers to float around, at least initially.
- As a possible preemption of any criticism of the vehicle on environmental grounds, the company is noting that Lynx’s liquid-propellant engines will “minimize” the environmental impact of the flights. “They are fully reusable, burn cleanly, and release fewer particulates than solid fuel or hybrid rocket motors,” XCOR’s Jeff Greason said in the release.
More details will likely come out at a press conference in LA scheduled for 1 pm EDT today.