The Starchaser Thunderstar was first built
in order to try to win the $10 million Anasari X-Prize in
2004, but came up a little short. The Thunderstar is the newest
model of suborbital spacecraft that Starchaser Industries
of the United Kingdom has come up with which uses a Starchaser
5 launch vehicle.
The goal is to eventually build the Starchaser Thunderstar
into a space tourism vehicle so that three men can travel
into low earth orbit and experience a few minutes of weightlessness.
The newest rendition of the Starchaser Thunderstar employs
two Churchill Mk 3 bi-liquid LOX (liquid oxygen) and kerosene
rocket engines. The Starchaser Thunderstar is 89-feet tall
and has an anticipated maximum speed of 3,000 mph. Upon reentry,
pilot and passengers will experience a parachute and water
Unlike some other companies developing spaceplanes, Starchaser
wants tourists to experience a space launch that closely resembles
what astronauts have experienced, with a vertical rocket,
spacesuits, countdown on a launch pad and intense initial
G-force propelling them into low Earth orbit.
The price tag on this trip is going to be around $200,000
for a 24-minute ride and a few minutes of weightlessness.
This is comparable what other companies will be offering as
Starchaser began their reach for the stars in 1992 with an
experimental rocket test program. They first launched a 6.7
m tall rocket in 1996 that was the largest privately built
rocket ever to be launched in Europe.
Starchaser then launched an even larger one, 12 m, in 2001
that had a one-man crew cabin in it. When 2002 came around
the Starchaser 5 rocket had become a two-stage vehicle.
The tests for the rocket began in early 2003. Full-scale
rocket tests were performed to satisfaction and the manned
parafoil drop test of the capsule was completed successfully.
A launch was scheduled in 2004 for the Starchaser Thunderbird
X Prize, but the company was still having engine fabrication
issues and the launch was cancelled.
The company moved into different avenues of research and
yet is still developing the Thunderstar. The newest information
from the company is that the first commercial flight of the
Starchaser Thunderstar could begin as early as 2009 or 2010.
So, save your money, grab a reservation and be one of the
first people to take a sightseeing tour of the world from
heights only a few have experienced.