Slowly but surely, the day is approaching when you’ll be able to buy a ticket to travel into space. Several companies, ranging from Virgin Galactic to SpaceX, are hoping to provide that opportunity. (Assuming you can afford a ticket that costs at least $250,000 anyway.)
But flying into space – even a suborbital flight like what will be offered by Virgin Galactic – isn’t like flying a plane. You can’t just buy a ticket, stow your overhead belongings, and sit down. You have to go through a series of training. And that training has to be provided by someone.
Houston-based company Waypoint 2 Space hopes to be that someone.
“As things progressed in the spaceflight industry, [CEO and Founder] Kevin Heath noticed a gap in the training environment,” Waypoint’s Director of Program’s Kelly Soich told me. “Everyone was focused on vehicles – nobody was looking at passenger side.”
The company will offer three different levels of astronaut training, as described in press materials they’ve provided here:
- Level 1 – Spaceflight Fundamentals: A one-week, fully immersive introduction course designed for anyone interested in training like an astronaut. This program includes launch and reentry G-forces, micro gravity, mission control operations, space suit operations, crew resource management and more.
- Level 2 – Sub-Orbital Training: Three days in a rigorous, sub-orbital space environment training designed for a specific flight profile and vehicle. Participants will learn and experience how limited exposure to weightlessness and G-forces associated with rocket powered flight affect the body. This training prepares participants to take full advantage of the three to four minutes of weightlessness during flight.
- Level 3 – Orbital Training: Beginning 2015, this eight-week course consists of rigorous training for the orbital space environment on launch and orbital vehicle operations, intra-vehicular activity occurring during a stay on an orbital vehicle of 10 days or more. This tailored program expands to 12 weeks with Extra Vehicular Activity training. Over the course of this program, participants will gain confidence as they experience a multitude of test scenarios, including spatial disorientation, emergency depressurization procedures, vehicle malfunctions and contingency operations.
The level 1 training is open to anyone interested in training like an astronaut, for a price of $45,000. That price is inclusive – hotels, meals, and everything else.
“They’ll train in spacesuit, experience microgravity and acrobatic flights. It’s the whole nine yards,” Soich told me. “We want to teach folks what they’re about to embark on.”
That $45,000 price is daunting, but it’s a fraction of the cost of a ticket on board Virgin Galactic, and the company hopes to bring down the price even further.
“Our goal is to bring that cost down so people will do astronaut training instead of a cruise to Jamaica,” said Soich.
The sub-orbital training and orbital training are limited to being provided to companies that offer spaceflight. They are currently in discussion with several companies preparing to offer commercial spaceflights to be their training provider.
“We want to take that burden off of them,” Soich said.
They’re one step closer to being a provider now. The company announced yesterday that it had received FAA safety approval for its training services.
“The FAA is working very hard to assure that space vehicles, launch sites and training programs are the safest they can be and we believe this safety approval for our programs is another step in that direction,” CEO Kevin Heath said in a statement. ”If someone wants to go to space or just wants to experience what it is like to train like an astronaut, Waypoint 2 Space is their first step.”
By: Alex Knapp
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