Commercial space travel is not only a myth no more, but it is also may start operating quite soon. Shuji Ogawa, the 48-year-old president of the startup PD AeroSpace, announced the company’s plans for the future. That is to enable people to travel in space by 2023.
“We would like to open a new space era,” Ogawa said. He added, “Space has the power to attract people.”
PD AeroSpace is working on developing a reusable spacecraft to carry passengers into space. The aircraft in question looks just like any other commercial airplane, but it will be able to travel at high speeds, withstand harsh conditions of outer space, and safely land passengers returning back to Mother Earth.
Not just a round-trip
The plans of the Nagoya-based company are very specific and worked down to every little detail. The future paying customers will be able to enjoy the flights up to an altitude of 110 kilometers while two pilots are controlling the craft. The spacecraft is capable of carrying up to six passengers.
The company has already come up with the return ticket price. Currently, it stands at $153,000 (¥17 million) per person.
The core team involved in the spacecraft project currently counts 11 professionals. They are working hard in a plant in Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture. The test vehicle is still unmanned and the company is aiming to fly it up to an altitude of 100 km so far. It appears that the project is going as planned. In fact, last year the company had a successful test.
PD AeroSpace’s aircraft engine can switch in between two combustion modes since it features a pulse detonation engine. During the test, the engine successfully switched propulsion options – from one where hot exhaust gases should push the aircraft forward (known as an airbreathing jet) to the classic rocket mode. The success of this test enables the project to move forward.
Since this is a commercial space travel, the company wants to make the travel experience more enjoyable and memorable. That’s exactly why there is a switch of combustion mode in the first place. When the switch happens at the altitude of 15 km the passengers can experience a zero-gravity state. This phase will last up to 5 minutes, during which the passengers can enjoy the view of the Earth from a brand new perspective.
Non-reusable rockets are very expensive. Thus, the commercial space travel has to be based on a more advanced and reusable tech. The company has to use technologies that keep the costs at the minimum, thus making it more attractive to the customers. The brand new and reusable spacecraft will be able to launch from airport runways. This has also significantly reduced the price per ticket.
The project is backed up by many investors, including the renowned ANA Holdings Inc.
With the U.S. companies being the current leaders in the space tourism industry, it’s great to see competitors rising from the other side of the Pacific.
PD AeroSpace was founded as a startup in Nagoya back in 2007. He was inspired by the Scaled Composites LLC SpaceShipOne. This company produced the first privately owned piloted vehicle that traveled to outer space. This success didn’t go unnoticed, as this company won the Ansari X Prize worth $10 million.
As a very small company, PD AeroSpace is facing a lot of challenges. Finding the funding sources and ensuring a stable influx of cash are just a few of them. The commercial space travel has created a huge buzz worldwide several years ago. But it lost its spark after a series of unfortunate accidents. This has also caused the investors to pull back, leaving the industry dry.
Yet, the company currently has over 40 volunteers, which are experts in numerous fields. Moreover, the project is backed up by many investors, one of them is the renowned ANA Holdings Inc.
Let us finish by sharing with you Shuji Ogawa’s pearl of wisdom: “Everything stops once it is given up; the only path to success is to keep trying. The simple idea of “cannot” is enough to make something impossible. Thinking of “how to achieve” is the starting point.”