SPACEPORT AMERICA - Officials with a company operating at Spaceport America said Wednesday they'll start test flights next week on a system to eventually take tiny payloads, including satellites, to suborbital space. The launch capsules will be sold and launched from a vending machine located at teh spaceport.
The company, Pipeline2Space, or P2S, discussed its plans during the second day of the Spaceport America Cup, a rocket competition that's drawn roughly 1,000 college students to the southeastern Sierra County-based spaceport this week. An official with Virgin Galactic, considered the facility's anchor tenant, also gave update about that company's activities Wednesday.
P2S plans to build an underground tube that will be used to fire a small capsules into the atmosphere and eventually suborbital space, said Mark Russell, CEO and co-founder of the company. The advantage is that the capsule at ground level already is traveling fast, while most other types of launches start with no speed. The idea is to reduce the cost and the accessibility of launching small payloads, he said.
"Our vision for spaceflight is hundreds or thousands of take-offs per day," he said. "We're taking our first steps to suborbital here at Spaceport America."
The company's test flights begin next week. It doesn't have its underground infrastructure yet, so the launches will start above-ground, using other equipment.
P2S is selling payload space during its testing phase at $100 per capsule, Russell said. The company collects data during the flight phase, which is the main reason for the flights, but also will try to recover the capsule when it returns to the ground. Customers order the capsules online and mail them back.
"You don't actually have to be here," he said.
The test flights will be in the range of 5,000 to 10,000-feet high, according to the company.
Russell said the testing will also involve horizontal flights, though likely not for customers.
Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks said it's "exciting to have a wonderful new company" at the facility that could help change the nature of spaceflight.
Editor: Maybe this will be Camden County's solution for sub-orbital launches.