SpaceX aims to launch up to 4 tourists into super high orbit

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This undated photo made available by SpaceX in February 2020 shows the Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoing acoustic testing in Florida. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, SpaceX announced it is working with Space Adventures Inc. to take tourists into a high orbit. (SpaceX via AP)
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In this file photo taken on March 1, 2019 The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the unmanned Crew Dragon capsule on its nose sits at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

SpaceX aims to launch up to 4 tourists into super high orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL: SpaceX aims to launch up to four tourists into a super high orbit, possibly by the end of next year.
The private company is working with Space Adventures Inc. for the flight, officials announced Tuesday. Ticket prices are not being divulged but expected to be in the millions.
Space Adventures already has helped put tourists into orbit with trips to the International Space Station, working with the Russian space program.
For this trip, paying customers will skip the space station and instead orbit two to three times higher, or roughly 500 miles to 750 miles (800 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers) above Earth.
It’s a lofty goal that would approach the record 850-mile-high (1,370 kilometers) orbit achieved by Gemini 11’s Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon in 1966.
The tourist flight “will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.
Elon Musk’s California-based SpaceX already is dabbling in space tourism, signing on a Japanese billionaire to fly to the moon in three or so years. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic also plan tourist trips to space, but these will be brief up-and-downs, not orbital.
SpaceX will use the same kind of Dragon capsule that will launch NASA astronauts to the space station, possibly in another few months. The capsule has flown only once in space so far, making its debut last year in a successful test flight without a crew.
Space Adventures spokeswoman Stacey Tearne said the tourist flight could occur in the last quarter of 2021. The company is in discussions with “several potential clients.”
No professional pilot or astronaut will be required, Tearne said, because the Dragon is fully autonomous. But passengers will be able to control the spacecraft if required, she said in an email.
The cost will be in line with previous tourist flights, she said. Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, paid $35 million for a 1 1/2-week space station flight in 2009. He said from orbit that it was “worth every penny and more.”
Like all previous space tourists, he launched on a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan.
This private Dragon flight from Cape Canaveral will be shorter, lasting up to five days, according to Tearne.
Based in Vienna, Virginia, Space Adventures helped arrange the flight of the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito, founder and chairman of Wilshire Associates in California. He flew to the space station on a Russian capsule in 2001, igniting the wrath of top NASA officials who opposed visiting tourists.
The company has arranged eight space missions, with one tourist going twice.
Space Adventures’ goal is to create “unique and previously impossible opportunities for private citizens to experience space,” Eric Anderson, company chairman, said in a statement.
NASA has softened its stance on space tourists, and is opening the station doors to paying customers once commercial crew flights by SpaceX and Boeing have been established.


US suspends flights by Chinese airlines in spat with Beijing

Updated 43 min 32 sec ago

US suspends flights by Chinese airlines in spat with Beijing

  • The move adds to a growing set of tension points between the world’s two biggest economies in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis
  • Before the pandemic, US and Chinese carriers operated approximately 325 weekly flights between the two countries

WASHINGTON: Washington on Wednesday ordered the suspension of all flights by Chinese airlines into and out of the United States after Beijing failed to allow American carriers to resume services to China.
The move adds to a growing set of tension points between the world’s two biggest economies in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.
The US action, which takes effect June 16, but could be implemented sooner if President Donald Trump orders it, affects four Chinese civilian carriers, including Air China and China Eastern Airlines, the Department of Transportation said.
“US carriers have asked to resume passenger service, beginning June 1st. The Chinese government’s failure to approve their requests is a violation of our Air Transport Agreement,” the department said in a statement.
US air carriers sharply reduced or suspended service to China amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but United and Delta submitted applications at the beginning of May to resume flights and have been unable to receive authorization from Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC), DoT said.
The latest spat between Washington and Beijing centers partially on the CAAC deciding to determine its limit on foreign airlines based on their activity on March 12.
US carriers by then had suspended all flights due to the pandemic — meaning their cap was calculated to be zero — while Chinese-flagged flights continued.
The “arbitrary ‘baseline’ date... effectively precludes US carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to and from China,” the US order says.
The department also said there are indications Chinese airlines are using charter flights to get around the limit of one flight a week to increase their advantage over US carriers.
“Our overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights,” the order said.
In early January 2020, before the pandemic struck, US and Chinese carriers operated approximately 325 weekly flights between the two countries.
The fight over air space comes after the US imposed restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei and ordered a probe into the actions of Chinese companies listed on American financial markets.
Trump has blamed China for the US coronavirus outbreak and blasted the country in a fiery speech last week over a new security law in Hong Kong.
China for its part has mocked the US stance on Hong Kong in light of civil rights protests across the US following the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man.
“Racism against ethnic minorities in the US is a chronic disease of American society,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier this week.
“The current situation reflects once more the severity of the problems of racism and police violence in the US,” he told reporters in Beijing.