A private space plane born in California is about to get new Texas digs.
XCOR Aerospace — the builder of the Lynx space plane — is renovating the main hangar for the spaceship designed to bring paying tourists into suborbital space. Lynx could launch on its first test flights later this year.
The hangar renovations kicked off during an Aug. 15 ceremony in Midland, Texas — the heart of XCOR's development and manufacturing operations — at the Midland International Airport. In the long term, XCOR will transform the airport to a spaceport, according to company representatives.
"As XCOR commences the Lynx flight test program this winter, the hangar construction signals the end of the beginning for our team. The next step is to get Lynx flying," Andrew Nelson, XCOR president, said in a statement.
Once Lynx starts flying, its backers promise the two-seater jet will bring paying tourists to an altitude of 330,000 feet (100 kilometers) and then make a landing on a conventional runway.
After completion, the updated hangar will house the spacecraft, the corporate headquarters of XCOR and facilities for research and development. Construction is being performed by N.C. Sturgeon and is expected to finish by 2015. Costs and renovation details were not disclosed in a news release.
The company partnered with the personal hygiene company Axe to give away 23 tickets to the edge of space aboard the Lynx once its starts flying commercially. XCOR has also penned agreements with two Canadian tourism companies to bring people into space for about $95,000 each.
One of XCOR's closest competitors in the space tourism field is Virgin Galactic, which has run several high-profile flight tests in the past year. Virgin Galactic's spaceplane — called SpaceShipTwo — will be lofted into the air by a carrier ship, WhiteKnightTwo. The carrier craft then drops SpaceShipTwo, allowing it to fly into suborbital space independently.
Founder Richard Branson has pledged to take the first passenger flight into space with his family once Virgin's SpaceShipTwo is ready to go. Flights could start as early as this year, Virgin Galactic representatives have said.