Putting the Little Guy in Space

We’re written a good deal about space tourism in the past, and about the burgeoning private spaceflight industry.

Most notable in the field, of course, is Spaceship Two project headed by designer Burt Rutan and backed by entrepreneur Richard Branson.

But what about the little guy, toiling away in his metaphorical garage in the hope of becoming the Steve Jobs of private space travel?

 

By day, Morris Jarvis works as an instrumentation and control engineer for Intel Corp.’s newest factory, Fab 32.
 
By night and on the weekends, he is Arizona’s version of the "Astronaut Farmer," building a vehicle he hopes to launch into space someday.
 
Jarvis and his 10 partners have built a prototype of a craft that would take everyday people on suborbital flights for a fee. He named the craft Hermes, a Greek god of land travel…

 Jarvis is about three years into the latest prototype, a gleaming white craft that resembles a boxy version of the space shuttle and seats four passengers. He works on it in his shop at his east Mesa home.

The problem is that Jarvis needs money to get a workable model off the ground.
 
He estimates he needs about $100,000 to do glide testing. He then would need $1.5 million to launch the craft with a helium balloon, the cheaper of two methods he is considering.
 
Launching the craft with a rocket would take about $5.4 million, he estimates.
 
Jarvis’ business plan is aimed more at the regular tourist than the wealthy, at least relatively speaking. He hopes space travelers will pay $25,000 — or about the price of a new car — for a trip powered by a helium balloon and $100,000 for a ride powered by a rocket.

That compares to Virgin Galactic, which has already collected $25 million in deposits from would-be space travelers at $200,000 per flight.

 
But lest you think that Hermes is too much of a garage space project, we should note that Jarvis’ employer, Intel, is building the chip set for the spacecraft. 
 
(Incidentally, Hermes was also the name of a proposed mini-shuttle designed by the French Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES) and the ESA to compete with the space shuttle back in the late 70s and early 80s, according to Wikipedia.)
 
The race to get normal people into space is, of course, part of a larger, renewed space race all around the globe
 
It’s an exciting time to be a rocket scientist. 
 

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