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Q&A: Getting to Space Without a Rocket

22 Jun 2015, 07:01 UTC
Q&A: Getting to Space Without a Rocket
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Question: I read this article explaining why it’s so expensive sending things into space. Turns out that about the cheapest it can cost is something like $4000 to $15,000 per kilogram, depending on the rocket used and total payload. And that’s just to get into a low Earth orbit (LEO). My mass is 85 kg (about average for an adult male), so that doesn’t bode well for the possibility of human “space tourism” flights like some private companies are working toward. Virgin Galactic seems to be leading in this endeavor, and they want $250,000 for a ticket. That’s around $3000/kg, still much more than I can afford. So here’s my question: Is there a cheaper way to get into space that doesn’t require a rocket? — WV, Alexandria, VA
Answer: That’s a great question, and a complete answer will take some time. First thing we need to define is how high up you have to go to “be” in space. The accepted definition is 100 km (about 65 miles).
The X-15 exceeded that altitude briefly on several flights back in the 1950-60s, and the pilots were thereafter qualified to wear an official astronaut patch on their uniform. The view ...

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