By Rob Coppinger in London
Launchers directorate to examine vehicle designs with future co-operation in mind
The European Space Agency is offering to help the continent's space tourism companies develop credible commercial plans by awarding three €150,000 ($190,300) contracts under its survey of privately funded human spaceflight vehicles.
Proposals must be submitted by 8 September and, under the feasibility study, the agency's launchers directorate will examine the winning bidders' vehicle designs, mission definitions, and business plans.
"We are interested in the reusable technologies the companies might develop, for our own future launcher programme," says David Vivanco, ESA launchers directorate strategic office analyst and tourism feasibility study co-manager. "We could establish links for future areas of co-operation. ESA could provide guidance and communication systems [for space tourism vehicles]."
A study by European aerospace technology company Vega identifies six space tourism organisations: ARCA of Romania; the Swiss-German-Austrian Project Enterprise; and UK firms Bristol Spaceplanes, Reaction Engines, Starchaser Industries and Virgin Galactic. ESA hopes private investors would be encouraged to invest in an evaluated company.