Astrium, a company that has been hard at work to deliver a revolutionary new vehicle which is capable of ferrying up to four passengers up to an altitude of 100km into space, do seem to be on track to do so. This particular ride is also known as the Spaceplane E93, where should it enter service, it might even have the capabilities of fulfilling a number of other scientific or operational suborbital missions. The Buzz Lightyear in me simply wants to cry out, “To infinity and beyond!”
Astrium’s business jet-sized spaceplane will be able to take off and land conventionally from a standard airport runway thanks to its jet engines, and this feature alone would be a huge cost savings since there is no need to construct a special launch pad of any kind just like we needed to do for space shuttles of yore. Could this be a precursor to the kind of science fiction scenarios that we have seen in movies before? When the spaceplane achieves an altitude of about 12km, the rocket engine will come alive, where in a matter of 80 seconds, the craft can then climb to 60km altitude.
When that is achieved, the rocket propulsion system will be shut down since the plane’s inertia will continue to carry it on to over 100km, allowing passengers within to hover weightlessly for several minutes while drawing in breathtaking views of Earth. This whole trip will last for approximately two hours. [Press Release]