XCOR Suborbital Tickets on Sale Now

I've just telecommuted in to a press conference in Los Angeles at which principals from XCOR Aerospace and Rocketship Tours announced that tickets for XCOR's rocketship-in-development are on sale now. Danish investment banker Per Wimmer also ceremoniously signed his consent form and was presented a giant first ticket, making him officially Passenger Number One.

Veteran travel entreprenour Jules Klar, credited with popularizing European travel for Americans in the 1960s, was introduced as the head of Rocketship Tours. "I did an enormous amount of due diligeance," said Klar of his decision to select XCOR as his rocketship provider of choice. He cited XCOR's 3,500 successful rocket firings since 2000 and the company's unmarred safety record as factors in his decision.

For their $95,000 ticket price, says Klar, passengers will get a "complete and total experience," not just the 1/2-hour run to space and back in XCOR's planned Lynx vehicle. After some basic physical and mental screening, said Klar, spaceflight participants will enjoy a 5-night stay at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in Arizona, where they will start training that will at some point include acrobatic airplane flights.

Former Space Shuttle commander and XCOR chief test pilot Rick Searfoss will fly the two-seat Lynx to suborbital space with one passenger at a time. The passenger will sit right beside Searfoss in the cockpit to get the best possible view. That view from space, said Searfoss at the conference, is "virtually a spiritual experience." He called the view the best part of the experience, in fact, easily beating out the experience of going weightless.

Lynx passengers won't get much of a sensation of weightlessness anyway, since they'll be strapped into their seats the whole time, in contrast to the planned Virgin Galactic experience, which will include floating about the cabin of an 8-place spaceship. At $200,000 a ticket, the Virgin experience also costs twice as much.

XCOR chief Jeff Greason gave an update on his company's progress in building the Lynx. With design work completed earlier this year, the engineers and technicians at XCOR have started building the ship in their shop in Mojave, California, with first prototype engine "very shortly" to be put on the test stand. The company aims to fly the first test flight in 2010, with Wimmer to get his ride in 2011, if all goes well.

Want to ride? You can make a deposit and get on the passenger list for $20,000. Pay the full $95,000 up front to get priority seating. Call 888-778-6877 or visit the Rocketship Tours website for more info.