...Will The Spaceships Go Offshore?
The first commercial spaceport for paying passengers could be in Malaysia, if a proposal now in the works comes to fruition. Bristol Spaceplanes has approached the Malaysian government with plans to build a launch site for the Ascender sub-orbital space plane, The Star reported on Nov. 12. The Ascender would take up to two crew members and two passengers to 100 kilometers and back in 90 minutes, the company says. Local authorities have already agreed to the plan, pending federal approval, The Star said. The Ascender was designed as an X Prize contender and uses off-the-shelf technology, according to Bristol Spaceplanes. The airplane would take off from an ordinary runway with two turbofan engines and climb at subsonic speed to about 26,000 feet. The pilot then starts the rocket engine and pulls up into a steep climb, reaching Mach 2.8, and coasts to 100 kilometers. The craft could be built within three years, and be carrying passengers within seven, according to the company's Web site.