28 May 1998
News - Vehicles (Good)
Bristol Spaceplanes Scale Model Flies Successfully
Leading European "X Prize" competitor making good progress
by Patrick Collins
On May 8 an 8ft (2.4m) long model of Bristol Spaceplanes' "Ascender" spaceplane performed its first test flights, flying at upwards of 80 kph (50 mph). The model is being used to study the low-speed handling of the full-scale "Ascender" which is the size of a business jet, and will carry 4 people to space and back.

Ascender is the leading entry from Europe for the international "X Prize" competition for $10 million prize for the first team to fly a piloted vehicle capable of carrying 3 people to 100 km altitude twice within two weeks.

Ascender's first flights to 100 km could take place as early as 2001. Thereafter David Ashford, Managing Director of Bristol Spacplanes expects certification for carrying fare-paying passengers to take a few more years of accumulating operating statistics.

The London Times devoted a recent article to the May 8 flights, entitled "Model spaceplane gives glimpse of daytrips to come". The article also referred to the recent NASA/STA report "General Public Space Travel and Tourism" quoting the statement that the dream of "some day taking a trip in space is finally approaching realization".

David Ashford has stated in Aviation Week & Space Technology (April 7 1997 p58) that "Space tourism will begin 10 years after people stop laughing." The tone of the Times article seems to support his contention that recently "...people have stopped laughing".

Let's hope Bristol Spaceplanes can raise the $80 million that they're currently looking for.

BSL have issued a press release about the flight.
Source: The Times, 21 May 1998

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Patrick Collins 28 May 1998
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