Space Adventures press conference: brief summary

Here are some of the key items from this morning’s press conference held by Space Adventures about their future plans (see their press release for some additional details):

  • The first major announcement was that the company has reached an agreement with Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, for a dedicated Soyuz flight to the ISS in the second half of 2011. There will be a single cosmonaut pilot and two seats available for sale by Space Adventures.
  • That flight, and potentially others to follow, is in addition to the seats they have on the regular Soyuz taxi flights to the ISS this fall (for Richard Garriott) and next spring (for a person yet to be announced). Going forward the company wants to do at least one flight to the ISS per year for as long as the station remains in operation.
  • The second major announcement was the creation of an “Orbital Mission Explorers Circle”. People who join this group pay a deposit for a future orbital flight and gain preferential access to seats on future flights, or can sell their reservation to someone else.
  • There will be six founding members of this Explorers Circle, the first of whom is Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. Brin, like other founding members, is paying a $5-million deposit. Brin was not present at the press conference, but there was a short statement by him where he said he was a “big believer” in the commercial development of space.
  • Space Adventures is shying away from the label of being a “space tourism company. “What we’re doing is opening the frontier,” Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures, said. “This is private space exploration.” This includes, as a part of it, tourism, he said, but only as part of a larger vision of the company.
  • Garriott, taking a short break from training to attend the press conference in New York, said he is not terribly concerned about the recent Soyuz reentry problems, although he said he will be “avidly” reading the report on the April ballistic reentry when it’s completed in about a month.
  • Peter Diamandis said that Zero G, the parabolic flight company that he co-founded and was acquired earlier this year by Space Adventures (another company Diamandis helped found), has made 200 commercial flights to date, flying over 5,000 people. He wants to ramp that up to 10,000 people a year within a couple of years, and eventually reach 100,000 people a year. Zero G will soon start making $1 million in changes to one of its two 727 aircraft so it can be used for NASA flights under terms of a contract announced earlier this year.
  • Anderson said he is a “huge fan” of suborbital spaceflight in general and Virgin Galactic in particular. Space Adventures, he said, is interested in partnering with one or more suborbital companies to sell flights, but will wait until there are vehicles flying before making any announcements in that area.

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