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The competition heats up: A Chinese company has announced that it is building a reusable suborbital spaceship to fly suborbital tourists by 2020.
Han Qingping, president of ChinaRocket Co Ltd in Beijing, said the company first will develop a 10-metric-ton reusable spacecraft and use it to ferry three to five travelers to a height of 80 km for a new perspective on the mother planet and experience weightlessness. That is the upper part of the mesosphere, higher than jets and balloons can travel, but just below the height where satellites fly.
No prices were given. “By 2025, a 100-ton reusable spacecraft will be produced to send up to 20 passengers to an orbit as high as 140 km above the ground,” he said. That’s into the thermosphere, and is high enough to be considered space. “Furthermore, we will begin to use the 100-ton vehicle to perform intercontinental scheduled flight and long commercial spaceflight around 2030.”
The proposal is audacious, especially its promised launch date of the suborbital craft in 2020 and an orbital craft in 2025. Nonetheless, the announcement illustrates the direction that rocketry appears to be heading, reusable vehicles capable of frequent reuse at less cost.