The November/December issue of LAUNCH, featuring the cover story titled "Sky Rocketing" identifies in detail the previously secret modifications that Rocketplane has made to its XP spacecraft, designed to draw future space tourists.
“There is no doubt that Rocketplane Global is a contender in the suborbital tourist race,” says Mark Mayfield, editor-in-chief, LAUNCH Magazine. “I think they gave us the story because they knew we would give them an objective and fair review, and that our readers would be intensely interested to read about what this spacecraft can do.”
In a joint news conference with LAUNCH, Rocketplane Global unveiled plans for the XP on Friday. Former Space Shuttle astronaut John Herrington, Rocketplane’s lead pilot, and the firm's program manager David Faulkner responded to a field of questions from a packed room of reporters. Both Herrington and Faulkner explained in detail the spaceplane's redesign. Among the changes: The XP will now ferry five passengers instead of three, employs a lighter and safer T-tail instead of a V-tail, will use higher performing, afterburning GE J85 engines for initial thrust, and will have a custom-made fuselage instead of a Lear jet fuselage as originally planned. The spaceplane is designed to fly on the GE J85 engines to 40,000 feet before ignition of a 36,000-pound-thrust rocket engine that will lift the XP to 330,000 feet into near space.
"For almost a year and a half the company has been working on these changes that stemmed from work done in the early days of the project," said Faulkner. "Since that time these changes have been incorporated into the design but have not been released to the public."
Rocketplane Global allowed LAUNCH Magazine unprecedented advance access to the design changes. Copies of the magazine's Nov/Dec issue with the exclusive cover story on the redesign were distributed to reporters covering the news conference.
“I think when readers see this story on the Rocketplane XP they will be impressed,” notes LAUNCH Managing Editor, Deb Martin. “The vehicle is familiar and seems very accessible because it is a plane, except this plane takes you into space.”
Rocketplane Global faces many challengers in the space tourism race including notable Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, Blue Origin, the Benson Space Company, and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS). Most flights into space run in the price range of $200,000 for consumers. First on the waiting list for the Rocketplane XP is Reda Anderson, a successful Southern California real estate investor.
Wil Simon, Media/Advertising
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