A Holiday in Space

Who's flying high and how to be a space tourist

Space Expedition Curaçao

  • Founded: 2008
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Space flights: sub-orbital
  • Flight costs: $95,000/person
  • First flight: expected 2014

Space Expedition Curaçao has three things in its favour over Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic: at $95,000 a ticket it’s cheaper than either of their sub-orbital spaceflights; every flight in its two-seat Lynx II rocket-coupe will be exclusive to the passenger; and it’s based in the beautiful Dutch Antilles instead of bleak Baikonur or dusty Mojave.

SXC intends to offer suborbital space tourism flights and scientific research missions out of Space Port Curaçao. It’s already got bookings from 35 would-be astronauts including Victoria's Secret model Doutzen Kroes; San Francisco Giants batting coach and Curaçao native Hensley Muelens; and superstar-DJ Armin van Buuren. By the end of 2011, the goal is to have 50 seats booked for the first launches in 2014. Dutch airline KLM will also buy seats as frequent flyer rewards, so expect to see a lot of the aerospace industry switching their flights to KLM!

The Lynx II in flight

The first 100 passengers to pay the full ticket price will become Founders, getting a three-night luxury stay in Curaçao and training experience before flights begin, and they’ll enter a lottery to be the first to fly into space on Lynx II. Future astronauts will have to pay a $50,000 deposit, but their ticket also includes three nights in a luxury hotel in Curaçao.

Each flight is also expected to carry small scientific packages, aimed at researchers who can’t afford access to zero-G today.

Exterior Spaceport Curaçao

Test flights of the Lynx I will start in 2012, and the Lynx II will be a fully-reusable spaceplane, capable of flying four times a day. However, before flights begin, SXC and XCOR has to get permission from the US government to export their technology outside the USA.

Lynx II will take off from a special terminal at Curaçao International Airport, which looks stunning in the architect’s sketches. Sitting alongside the pilot, the passenger will go through the sound barrier at 60 seconds and then climb for two minutes, reaching Mach 3 at 60km before the engines cut off and Lynx II coasts to 100km, returning in a 15-minute glide that will reach 4.5G as the pilot flattens out to land on Curaçao, although the engines are designed to restart if the pilot needs to adjust the flight plan.

The full package will also include training in a G-centrifuge, two-seater training jet, high altitude pressure chamber and a zero-G ‘vomit comet’ flight, plus some basic academic training about spaceflight mechanics. And don’t forget, you’re on a Caribbean island.

 

Interior Spaceport Curaçao

Images courtesy SXC and XCOR