This article will go over the vehicles, prices, safety considerations, and other information related to most of the options for civilians to travel to space and back. For more information about each vehicle, go to the websites linked at the bottom of each section.
Blue Origin New Shepard
Vehicle overview: Blue Origin will utilize their New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle when carrying passengers just past the edge of space. The New Shepard is powered by a single Blue Origin BE-3 engine. The BE-3 is fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
Price: approximately $200,000 per ticket
Safety: The New Shepard has a full-envelope launch escape system that has been validated throughout all parts of the flight. This means that it has been tested to abort and bring the crew to safety at any point if a problem occurs. The capsule lands using parachutes with a small engine that fires at the very end to make the landing very soft. The New Shepard has had 13 test flights with one failure. The only failure that has happened only caused a loss of the booster, meaning the capsule was unaffected.
Other: The New Shepard capsule has the largest windows ever flown on a spacecraft. They allow 92% of visible light to pass through them as the capsule slowly rotates to allow each passenger to experience 360° views of the Earth below them.
More Information: https://www.blueorigin.com/new-shepard/
Vehicle Overview: SpaceX’s Starship will be a fully and rapidly reusable spacecraft capable of bringing up to 100 people to Mars. Starship will also be used to establish a moon colony and deliver large payloads to low Earth orbit. The Super Heavy booster that will act as the first stage for Starship will have up to 30 of SpaceX’s new Raptor engines. These engines are the first of their kind to fly.
Price: $500-$1000 per ticket
Safety: Starship has not yet successfully flown and is still in development. Based on the development of the Falcon 9, another SpaceX rocket, SpaceX will have extensive testing and work out any problems long before they allow people to fly onboard. Starship will not have an escape system, but if the problem is in the first stage, then the upper stage could be separated and land.
Other: Starship is the only craft on this list that can reach past low Earth orbit and has the largest crew capacity.
More Information: https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/starship/
SpaceX Crew Dragon
Vehicle Overview: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is a seven-seat crew capsule that sits on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9. It is currently in use by NASA to bring astronauts to the International Space Station and its cargo variant has been in use by NASA to bring supplies to the International Space Station since 2012.
Price: $55,000,000 per seat
Safety: The Crew Dragon features a full envelope abort system that uses hypergolic propellants that compost on contact, making them incredibly reliable. The abort system has been tested at various stages in flight and has passed the very strict safety regulations set by NASA.
Other: The Crew Dragon interior is inspired by the sleek interiors of Tesla cars. All manual overrides in the cabin are accessed using large touchscreen computers. The ride to the launch pad is also completed in the newest model of a Tesla.
More Information: https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/dragon/
Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo
Vehicle Overview: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital spaceplane that is launched in the air. It is dropped off of the bottom of a custom airplane before lighting its single RocketMotorTwo engine, which is fueled by polyamide plastic and nitrous oxide. SpaceShipTwo lands like an airplane, unlike all other vehicles on this list. Another feature setting this apart from the rest of the vehicles on this list is that it is 100% manually flown. Most rockets are controlled by a computer with manual overrides.
Price: approximately $250,000 per ticket
Safety: SpaceShipTwo has only flown once and was aborted after a failure of the engine. The vehicle returned to the runway with the crew unharmed. There will likely be many successful test flights before there are any passengers on board.
Other: SpaceShipTwo is the only currently operational spacecraft that lands like an airplane.
More Information: https://www.virgingalactic.com/learn/
Freshmen Sean Harren is a staff writer for the 2020-2021 Colonel. He plays soccer and lacrosse. In his free time, he enjoys sailing and CAD modeling/3D printing.