Ever since the very rich have existed there have been niche markets around their desires. Some of theses desires include mansions, yachts, sports teams, sports cars and even submarines. Why not continue that market philosophy into space by creating luxury or super high quality reusable spacecraft. A space sports car.
Such craft would be very similar to ships like the Lynx or even the SpaceShips One and Two. Small, reusable, and containing proven technology. But the similarity would end there.
Any kind of spaceship that would want to tout itself as a space sports car would have to have many more high-end attributes than the private spaceships currently available.
First, it would have to be able to be crewed by someone who does not have a history of test piloting. After all, the owner would probably want to fly his ship once in awhile.
Next, the ship would likely need to have increased capacity for systems that increase the performance and experience of the flight. These would allow for more "flying" instead of just floating around. Or, maybe, a better "kick" when they launch. No doubt, once having learned to fly the thing, the owners might like to be able to really drive it for awhile if in orbit, without worrying about fuel. Feeling the g's and maybe even buzz some space stations.
Lastly, aesthetic design will have to combined with engineering. Much like the Lamborghinis or Ferraris of today. They are not only built for superior function but also superior appearance. While in aerospace, science does lend to beauty slightly, a private spaceplane intended to function as a status symbol or a high performance toy could not look like a Mercury space capsule, though such designs may be optimal. It would have to be sleek and stylish. Custom paint, larger windows, better interiors. Everything about the craft would have to portray beauty and design, not just functionality, in order to increase the value of the experience. This means a departure from only engineers designing craft to bringing in industrial designers and artists to smooth out the rough edges.
|The XCOR Lynx spaceplane|
This type of company could be started immediately. With the advent of commercial, suborbital spaceplanes only one or two years away, it would be possible for a talented engineer and designer to purchase a few of these planes and upgrade them for wealthy, private individuals. This direction will probably be undertaken by companies like Virgin Galactic or even XCOR Aerospace once full production is underway.
Such a company would be able to operate on little initial capitol from the founders. The space cars could follow a pre-order system with initial money down, from the customer to start building, and then the rest of it when the project is complete.
As time goes on and the company grows and technology advances, it would be possible for the company to create original or custom designs for its clients. Instead of repurposing spaceplanes they would be able to create original "Lamborginis of the Void."
Obviously this type of a business is for a niche of a niche. Millionaire or billionaire thrill-seekers. There are only a few of those. Even with his own spaceplane company, Richard Branson would likely invest in a space Lamborgini, but Bill Gates certainly wouldn't.
The problem of the small market can be dealt with. Governments and large companies will want ships redesigned for any number of reasons. The beginning custom spaceplane shop would be able to get all kinds of business out side of its wealthy thrill-seeker target market.
As far as the second problem. There is nothing that can be done except to do the best you can and have a good insurance policy and lawyer for when someone crashes their space Ferrari.
Overall, the idea of creating the height of style and performance for space is something that can be accomplished within the next decade without gigantic research or investment. Such an approach would be a good means for talented young engineers and entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door of the space industry in a significant way.