Hermes spacecraft aims to join tourism space race
By Darren Quick
April 1, 2012
We’ve covered numerous projects seeking funding through Kickstarter but none as ambitious as the project from Phoenix, Arizona-based STAR (Space Transport and Recovery) Systems. Rather than looking to get yet another iPhone case off the ground, the STAR team is seeking funds to aid in development of its Hermes spacecraft that would compete against the likes of Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures in carrying private passengers and payloads into space.
This Hermes shouldn't be confused with the European Hermes spaceplane project that was cancelled in 1992 without a craft ever being built. Borrowing much from the design of NASA’s Space Shuttle, the Hermes is a reusable, suborbital spacecraft that is about only one-quarter of NASA's now retired shuttle. A full-scale prototype of the spacecraft structure has already been built and tests have been conducted on small-scale engines measuring 2- and 3-inches (5 and 7.6 cm) in diameter. Now the team is seeking funds to scale things up for testing of a full-scale 10-inch (25.4 cm) engine core. Hermes will employ several cores for propulsion.
The Hermes’ hybrid rocket propulsion system, dubbed the “Enabling Hybrid Rocket Propulsion System” (EHRPS), would generate 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg) of thrust. The spacecraft would be launched with a single-stage booster rocket that would propel the craft to a maximum speed of over Mach 3 (2,284 mph/3,675 km/h). Hermes would be piloted by a two-man crew and carry up to six passengers to an altitude of about 62 miles (100 km) on a 15 minute spaceflight that will allow them to take in the curvature of the Earth and experience weightlessness for 2-3 minutes before returning to Earth and landing horizontally, like the Space Shuttle.
The US$20,000 Kickstarter goal is only for the construction and testing of the full-scale motor, with the Hermes team (which is made up of aerospace engineers boasting a sum total of 50 years of experience in private and commercial space transportation system research, design and prototype development) estimating it will take around $4 million to get one Hermes Spacecraft ready to receive paying customers. If they manage to get to that point, trips to space are expected to start at around $150,000 for private passengers.
Here’s the video pitch for the Hermes project.