XCOR to launch private rocket plane from Curacao

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On the Caribbean island of Curacao, tourists enjoy picturesque views of sun-splashed beaches and scuba diving among the radiant coral reefs. In a few years, they may also be able to take rocket trips into outer space.

XCOR Aerospace Inc., a Mojave-based space-tourism company, announced Tuesday that it signed a deal with the government of Curacao and a group of Dutch investors to launch its rocket plane from the island and take adventure seekers to more than 327,000 feet, or 62 miles, above the Earth’s surface.


At that suborbital altitude, passengers experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. The experience takes place aboard a piloted two-seat, rocket-powered space plane called the Lynx. The cost of the short joy ride? $98,000.

XCOR plans to begin test flights at Mojave Air and Space Port sometime in 2011. The 25-employee firm wants to begin taking people into space from the Mojave port shortly thereafter.

The Curacao government recently announced that it wanted to form a commercial space flight services industry on the island. But because Curacao is part of the Netherlands, the island cannot own the spacecraft outright and is leasing it from XCOR instead.

Curacao hopes its commercial airport can become a spaceport as early as 2014. The island is an ideal locale for space trips because of its small population, heavy traffic of tourists and picturesque landscape, with its ice-blue ocean and lush countryside, said Aleta Jackson, XCOR co-founder.

The deal is estimated to be worth about $25 million.

Last year, XCOR signed a similar deal with the South Korean government to launch its rocket plane from that country by 2013.

-- W.J. Hennigan