Science

Next-Generation Spaceships
Routine commercial travel to outer space may be the norm as soon as 2012, as the next generation of spacecraft — designed by private sector firms like Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences Corp., Space X and others — transport adventure-seeking civilians into low-Earth orbit. Here, a look at the ships and spaceports we'll ride in the very near future. Read more >>
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Spaceport America

Flights will depart from the Mojave Spaceport in the Californian desert, so you'll get spectacular views of the mountains and Pacific coast as you hurtle skyward.

(New Mexico Spaceport Authority)

Spaceport America

Spaceships line up at Spaceport America. Would-be astronauts will have to pass a basic fitness test and be prepared for a very physical ride; en route to space, they'll experience 3 to 4 g's for around 90 seconds, and 6-7 g's on re-entry.

(New Mexico Spaceport Authority)

The Dragon

A qualification unit of The Dragon sits at SpaceX's Hawthorne facility. 

(SpaceX)

The Dragon

The Dragon rocket separates from a Falcon 9 rocket, which has taken it into space. 

(NASA/SpaceX)

The Dragon

The Dragon approaches the International Space Station, in this artist's rendering. 

(NASA/SpaceX)

The Dragon

(SpaceX)

The Dragon

The Dragon spacecraft (capsule and cargo trunk) with solar panels deployed. 

(SpaceX)

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has unveiled the design of its new spacecraft. White Knight Two (WK2) is the mother-ship that will carry SpaceShip Two — the passenger vehicle for high-spending space tourists — into orbit.

(Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic

Inside SpaceShipTwo's cockpit. The spaceship hitches a ride up to around 50,000 feet attached to WK2, the specially-designed carrier aircraft or mothership. Once it hits 50,000 feet, the spaceship is released and ignites its hybrid rocket. The spaceship then climbs from 50,000 feet to over 360,000 feet, which takes about 90 seconds and will reach a speed of just over 3 times the speed of sound.

(Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic

Thought airline seats were pricey these days? If you want a place on one of Virgin Galactic's flights, you'll need to stump up a frightening $200,000.

(Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic

The craft will reach heights of around 360,000 feet. That means that from any port-hole you'll be able to see about 1,000 miles into the distance. Space officially starts at 333,000 feet — remember that so you can brag properly afterward.

(Virgin Galactic)

Orion_crewvehicle

An artist's conception of NASA's Orion vehicle, which the space agency describes as a "crew exploration vehicle."

(NASA)

Orion_testlaunch

Using mock-up components, technicians at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico practice stacking the Orion crew modules.

(NASA)

Orion_testlaunch2

Using mock-up components, technicians at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico practice stacking the Orion crew modules.

(NASA)

Orion_testlaunch3

Functional tests of the crew module are conducted at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

(NASA)

Next-Generation Spaceships

Routine commercial travel to outer space may be the norm as soon as 2012, as the next generation of spacecraft — designed by private sector firms like Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences Corp., Space X and others — transport adventure-seeking civilians into low-Earth orbit. Here, a look at the ships and spaceports we'll ride in the very near future. Read more >>

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