Speaking at a recent conference in England, Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said that his company could have been hauling millionauts on suborbital joyrides by now if it had simply gone with a simpler design and a lower price.Â Something, for example, like what XCOR is planning to launch.
Whitehorn told attendees at the Rutherford Space Conference that the company’s original plan was to rebuild SpaceShipOne to take people up because it was quick and easy to do that.” Burt Rutan’s prototype won the X-Prize back in 2004.
However, the company’s well-heeled customers did not want to pay $200,000 to experience weightlessness while strapped in their seats, so the company decided to build the much larger SpaceShipTwo – which will allow them to float around in a cabin. So, the company went directly to phase 2, Whitehorn said.
The comments could be a subtle dig at rival XCOR, whose Lynx vehicle will fly one passenger to the edge of space in a cockpit-style environment that will allow for far less movement. XCOR’s customers will less than half the price – $95,000 – and experience about three minutes of weightlessness while flying to an altitude of 37 miles. By contrast, Virgin Galactic’s millionauts will experience about five minutes of weightlessness on flights that will reach about 67 miles.