A review of space tourism in Europe

I was on vacation last week in London, but that did not stop me from making a visit to the Royal Aeronautical Society last Tuesday for their “Space Tourism: A New Industry in the Making” conference. I’ve written up some highlights of the conference in The Space Review this week.

One of the bigger developments at the event was a confirmation by Hugues Laporte-Weywada of EADS Astrium that their suborbital spaceplane project, launched with great fanfare just over two years ago at the Paris Air Show, is going into stasis because of a lack of funding. They have been working on some key technologies, including the LOX/methane rocket engine that the vehicle will use, but now that this work is wrapping up the project will on until (or if) they can raise the €1 billion (US$1.4 billion) they estimate they need to develop the vehicle. Laporte-Weywada conceded that this means that they won’t be the first to enter the market, but tried to liken the situation to that encountered by Airbus, which entered the commercial jetliner market many years after Boeing and other companies but is now an industry giant.

Another area of focus was on the regulatory situation, particularly in the UK. Will Whitehorn of Virgin Galactic noted that no other country has a regulatory environment as favorable as the US, thanks to the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, although Sweden is the closest, thanks to existing law that has governed sounding rocket launches there for decades. (A representative from Spaceport Sweden noted that they are working with the Swedish National Space Board to get final clarification on the regulations that would govern suborbital commercial human spaceflight there.) The UK has no enabling law, which is hindering proposals to establish a spaceport in northern Scotland. Whitehorn said he wanted to talk with other British space companies to seek a comprehensive overhaul of UK space policy (including but not limited to commercial suborbital spaceflight regulation), with an eye towards the national elections planned for next year.

1 comment to A review of space tourism in Europe

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>