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The competition heats up: In a press release today XCOR announced new progress in the assembly of its Lynx suborbital space plane.
They revealed that they have “bonded the XCOR Lynx Mark I strakes to the Lynx spacecraft fuselage.”
To be honest, my impression of the work at XCOR from the photo at the link is that of one or two guys working in their spare time in their garage on restoring a classic car. Though I wish them well, the progress seems very slow, and piecemeal. In fact, it reminds me much of Richard Branson’s many false promises at Virgin Galactic. For example, back in 2012 XCOR announced a test flight schedule for 2013. None of those flights ever happened. Then in 2014 they said they hoped to begin flight tests before the end of that year. Again, nothing happened.
At least with this most recent release they aren’t saying when they plan to fly, since from the picture it appears they are quite a long ways from doing so. It is far better to make real promises that false ones, and XCOR might have learned that lesson watching the public relations problems Richard Branson has had in recent years.
Even so, I have been consistently very skeptical of this project. In fact, back in October 2013, in describing the effort of Blue Origin in the suborbital tourism trade, I predicted the following:
That the present ship [Blue Origin’s New Shepard] is being designed for suborbital tourist flights makes it a direct competitor of Virgin Galactic and XCOR. And considering the problems that Virgin Galactic has with SpaceShipTwo [written one year before its crash], and that XCOR doesn’t have the big bucks of Bezos, Blue Origin might actually be in the lead in the race to put the first tourists in space.
It appears now that this prediction was right on the money.