Despite all of the Virgin-focused hoopla, there is a lot more going on in Mojave these days than just Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. And even for those two companies, there is more to space going on in Mojave than suborbital tourism. . . . XCOR Aerospace, located next door to one of Scaled's hangars, continues to develop its own suborbital tourist vehicle, the Lynx. While it won't initially get all the way to the 62-mile altitude considered to be the threshold of space, it will still allow long weightless periods for its passenger and a smaller experiment, with the opportunity to go higher and longer with follow-on versions. Meanwhile, just a couple of blocks down the road, Masten Space Systems, fresh off its recent surprise win over Texas' Armadillo Aerospace in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Landing Challenge, plans to start flying to altitudes far beyond the meager few hundred feet needed to win that prize. According to business development manager Michael Mealling, "about half of next year's flights will be in the 1500- to 10,000-foot range. Toward the end of the year we'll be breaking through the 100,000-foot [about 20 miles, or about a third of the altitude needed for official spaceflight] barrier."
Are we seeing a critical mass of innovative space companies, something like the explosion of computer companies in the mid-1970s? Let's hope it's similarly fruitful.
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