The hottest thing (not literally) about space right now is space tourism. SpaceX and Virgin is racing towards putting humans to Mars, and now China plans to build the world’s biggest spaceplane that can take 20 tourists to the edge of space.
Source: China News
The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing, which is backed by the state, is developing a scalable 20-passenger spaceplane. It is designed to be a winged rocket that takes of under its own power. Academy team leader Han Pengxin shared that the vehicle will take off vertically like a rocket and land on the runway automatically without any ground or on-board intervention, which will take burning liquid methane and liquid oxygen.
Source: China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology
As of now, there are two existing designs of the rocket plane, one small and a scaled up. The small one weighs 10 tonnes with a 6-meter wingspan, able to carry 5 people to the edge of space which is at 100 kilometers in altitude. The other one has a mass of 100 tonnes, with twice the wingspan of the small one. This is what’s considered the largest spaceplane ever.
Source: Next big future
Test flights, according to Han, will be finished in the next two years, because almost all of the ground tests have been finished and all the subsystems of the test vehicle worked very well.
It will be the biggest commercial spaceplane which so far pledged to fly near space, competing against SpaceShipTwo by Virgin Galactic and New Shepard by Blue Origin both having 6-passenger capacity; and Lynx by XCOR with a single passenger beside a pilot.
The first flight of their spaceplane may launch in 2020, which will cost between $200,000 and $250,000 per passenger ride