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.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace