Yesterday, X-COR Aerospace announced a deal to open a new research facility in Midland,Texas, for the purposes of developing and testing X-COR’s new Lynx suborbital spacecraft. At the announcement ceremony Governor Rick Perry was on hand to grope a mockup of the new space plane.
It’s not going to be taking astronauts to the International Space Station, but if it ever gets fully developed, the X-COR’s Lynx suborbital spacecraft will be a marvel of aerospace engineering. The privately funded spacecraft aims at roughly the same altitude that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will hit (about 100km), but sacrifices the room to cartwheel around the cabin for the ability to launch without the assistance of a carrier craft. Even though the two-person cockpit might be a bit stuffy compared to its competition, the Lynx craft hedges its bets on space-tourism dollars with an estimated price tag of just $95,000 dollars (vs. Virgin’s $200,000). The Lynx does not have to rely on just space-tourism money though; X-COR plans on using the space plane to perform short-duration science experiments at the edge of space and will even be capable of deploying small satellites.
According to Space.com, Midland is also seeking to expand its space cred by trying to get the Midland International Airport certified as a spaceport by the FAA. The certification process could take over a year to go through, so for the time being Lynx will be sticking to its previous plan of launching from the Mojave spaceport and a small island in the Caribbean (James Bond villains need space vacations too) as early as next year.
Here is an animation X-COR released in 2008 showing what a flight aboard the Lynx might look like…