Commercial spaceflight operator XCOR unveiled plans this week to shuttle paying passengers on 45-minute trips into low earth orbit for under $100,000, starting as soon as 2014. XCOR is the latest of several companies that have announced in the last few months that they’re on the cusp of offering commercial space tourism flights. The company’s Lynx vehicle takes off and lands like an airplane, using a rocket engine for all phases of flight. XCOR plans to start flight tests on the vehicle later this year. But the company doesn’t plan on stopping with short hops into space. Future, larger variants of the Lynx will be able to carry passengers from New York to Tokyo in about an hour and a half, quickly climbing into orbit for most of the distance. But that may not come to reality for another 20 years. In the mean time, the first Lynx vehicle is compact, at about 30 feet long with room for just a handful of people.
Correction: An article last week about XCOR’s commercial space vehicle implied that the Lynx vehicle could be used to fly passengers between cities. The company has no such plans.