Russia to stop flying space tourists after 2009
Posted 22 January 2009 - 04:30 PM
Anybody planning on writing that $20 million check to Space Adventures should listen up. Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, has announced that after 2009 they won’t be sending any more tourists to the International Space Station. Software magnate and American billionaire Charles Simonyi, who flew to the station in 2007 and will do so again in March of this year, will be the last tourist to hitch a ride on a Soyuz rocket to the station, and later in the year will be followed by the flight of a Kazak astronaut, whose ticket will be purchased by the government of Kazakhstan (whose Baikonour Cosmodrome serves as the launch pad for all manned Russian launches).
The reason for the cessation of commercial flights is the increased crew capacity of the International Space Station. With the addition of new equipment in the last space shuttle flight, the station’s capacity was doubled from three, which will create room for full-time resident astronauts from a number of countries that have contributed to the station’s $100 billion construction and have not yet done more than visit. Thus far, American and Russian astronauts far outnumber all other residents, with France and Germany the only two other nations to have nationals live aboard the ISS. The increased crew capacity will ramp up productive time on the station, increasing from 10 hours a week with three astronauts to 35 hours a week with six.
Started in 2001, the Russians have brought in $20 million (and more) a flight for six space tourists, termed by Roskosmos to be ‘private spaceflight participants.’ All six flights were arranged by Virginia-based Space Adventures and consisted of the paying guest taking an extra seat inside the Soyuz capsule for a 8-10 trip to the station, and then returning to Earth aboard an already-docked Soyuz (the new one was left behind to serve as a fresh emergency evacuation craft).
However, with the space shuttle fleet being retired after 2010, the Soyuz rockets will be the only method for transferring crew to the station and back again, making the value of those extra seats all that much higher. The space tourist business has always irritated NASA, but they begrudgingly let it continue in order to help finance Russia’s struggling space agency. NASA’s replacement system, the Orion CEV, isn’t projected to be available until 2015.
While Space Adventures won’t be purchasing anymore Soyuz flights, they aren’t resting on their laurels. The company has been working with aerospace engineering firms to build custom rockets for launching paying customers into space. And they aren’t alone; XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic are both constructing private spacecraft, XCOR’s a two-seat rocket and Virgin Galactic’s an eight-seat suborbital spaceplane modeled after the privately-build X Prize winning SpaceShipOne.
One person who is not worrying about his deposit is Google co-founder Sergei Brin. He chartered with Space Adventures to purchase an entire Soyuz flight for an undisclosed sum. The flight, tentatively scheduled for 2011, is not one of the standard crew transfer missions performed by the Soyuz craft, and as such can be slotted into the launch schedule without disruption of ISS personnel launches.
Posted 22 January 2009 - 04:54 PM
So the combination is 1-2-3-4-5. That's the stupidest combination I've ever heard in my life! That's the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!- Dark Helmet; "Live free or die. Death is not the worst of evils." - Gen. John Stark; "Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it." -Robert Frost; "It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds." - Samuel Adams, Brewer/Patriot
Posted 22 January 2009 - 05:54 PM
"So I can squash it." "Are we allowed to squash alien life forms?"
"If they're inside your sleeping bag. There it is. Wait a minute. Where'd you put the phase pistols?"
"You wanna shoot a bug?"
"I'm just gonna stun it."- Tucker and Mayweather