Rocketplane on the Runway

Oklahoma Gazette | December 15, 2005
Oklahoma City-based Rocketplane Limited, funded by the state to build a low-earth-orbit space plane to be launched from Western Oklahoma, is “considering” launches from Japan, a newspaper there reported recently.

Rocketplane was established in Oklahoma after it was awarded an $18 million tax credit to create a reusable spaceship to launch from the runway of the former Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base in Burns Flat.

Members of the company recently traveled to Fukuoka, Japan, to participate in the 56th International Astronautical Congress, and sponsored a fashion show, a company spokeswoman said Nov. 17.

However Rocketplane spokeswoman Brenda Golden, when contacted by Oklahoma Gazette, at first denied the report, but later refused to discuss the company’s ideas for launching from Japan. She confirmed, however, that Rocketplane had acquired “a couple of Japanese partners” in the company’s space endeavors.

“Rocketplane will take paying passengers into suborbital space from Burns Flat, Oklahoma. There are no restrictions on where our customers are from, there are not international limits to our selling our ride anywhere in the world,” Golden wrote in a release. “As for any other information you may have received from reading the (Mainichi Daily News) please contact them directly for confirmation of their story.”

The newspaper, the Mainichi Daily News, an English language newspaper in Japan, reported Oct. 17 that Rocketplane was seeking designs for clothing to be worn in space, tapping noted fashion designer Eri Matsui.

“Calling for designs was space travel firm Rocketplane Ltd., Inc. The firm is planning to fly passengers on space tours to an altitude of about 100 kilometers, and is considering launches from Hokkaido. The winner of the fashion contest will cooperate with Matsui and Yoshiko Taya, a researcher of space clothing, to design fashion to be worn in space,” the newspaper reported.

Designs worn by some of the models sporting the space fashions showed an image of the Rocketplane spaceship their chests.

When contacted about the report, Mainichi writer Ryan Connell confirmed the newspaper’s account, although said such a launch from Hokkaido was far from firm.

“Our story said Rocketplane ‘is considering launches from Hokkaido,’ so I think it is probably a bit much to say ‘planning’ based on what we know,” Connell wrote.

Golden also confirmed that Rocketplane sponsored the fashion show, although denied that the designs presented there would make it into space. She said the designs included a space wedding gown.

Golden said Rocketplane President George French and business development director Chuck Lauer attended the meeting on behalf of Rocketplane and other space interests.

“George French was in Japan for approximately two weeks at the annual International Astronautical Congress and because he is on the board of directors of the Spaceweek International Association. Both of these annual meetings were in Japan this year. Chuck Lauer, director of business development, also attended these activities. The attached pictures are from the fashion show in Japan that featured Rocketplane as part of the program that you read about and questioned,” Golden wrote.

Recently, Rocketplane announced a partnership with SpaceShot Inc., a Texas firm that plans to produce an online game to allow participants a chance to vie for a seat on Rocketplane for $5. Seats on Rocketplane have been tentatively priced at about $200,000 each.

“SpaceShot gives everyone the opportunity to go to space, not just the wealthy,” French said in a release. “SpaceShot’s skill games will be a huge sales channel for us. Even if they award all of our booked flights as prizes, we can build additional rocketplanes to meet demand.”

Rocketplane also recently announced retired Oklahoma astronaut John Herrington will test pilot the Rocketplane spaceship, which the company says is now entering a final design stage.

Rocketplane plans the first launch of the ship, piloted by Herrington, for October 2006, according to recent reports. However, chief designer David Urie said recently that the maker of Rocketplane’s engine wanted $100 million in insurance before allowing the company to use it, an issue he called a “huge stumbling block.”

Oklahoma Gazette

In its inaugural issue of Oct. 15, 1979, Oklahoma Gazette, at that time an upstart, bimonthly publication with a mere 2,000 circulation, featured a page-one story about the Oklahoma City Council’s recent passage of an urban conservation district. Hardly sexy...
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