Richard Branson gained another small step toward the great leap of space tourism yesterday, when Cecil Field, a commercial airport in Florida, announced they have achieved federal license to the company’s new breed of plane-like spacecrafts.
Rather than shoot into the atmosphere like rockets, Branson has designed a six-passenger, two-pilot craft capable of sub-orbital flight by taking off horizontally. It has a big booster pack, though, so it will need much of the 12,500-foot long, 200-foot wide tarmac to do that. Passengers are already plunking down $200,000 per person for a 2.5 hour slingshot ride offering about six minutes of actual Superman-like weightlessness. Branson hopes to make more money by using his fleet to launch small satellites while up there, too.
Cecil field offers a particularly great launchpad for the mogul, who has already secured an additional site in California and is building another in New Mexico. After all, space tourists on the East Coast would likely loath spending five plus hours to cross the country on a commercial airliner when it now takes about half that time to leave the planet.