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Hermes spacecraft aims to join tourism space race


April 1, 2012

The Hermes spacecraft would carry paying passengers into space

The Hermes spacecraft would carry paying passengers into space

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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.

Source: Hermes Project via Kickstarter

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

The space race will never fully succeed until the poorest can share a ship with everyone else.

Pat Burneson

re; Pat Burneson

The poor do not get technology until the rich have tested, proved, and payed for its development.


At first glance, I thought that XCOR had finally taken the wraps off their Lynx spaceplane.

Looks like its only a prop built by STAR, though.

Jon A.

This just reminds me of an old 2CV for some reason.

Karsten Evans

Left a Shuttle in the dryer too long or it's a design actually inspired by vehicles like the X-24, the Northrup HL-10 and M2-F2 (famous for crashing and inspiring "The Six million Dollar Man") unlike the Shuttle which has often erroneously been claimed to have been based on or inspired by those and other lifting body aircraft.

The shuttle is a box with a nosecone and wings, not at all a lifting body design.

What research data from those that was used in developing the Shuttle was the landing approach data where it was shown that a high angle landing without an engine to adjust the trajectory was possible and practical, though also risky given its intolerance for error and one chance only nature.

What saved the pilot of the M2-F2 was because its design was very unstable. To fix that the engineers built a massive and very heavy internal framework which did not bend when it smacked into the ground and rolled. Post crash calculations estimated the frame, especially around the pilot, could have withstood a 300g impact. Worked out much better than their original plan to borrow a few hundred pounds of gold from Fort Knox to use for ballast. Yes, seriously, the government and military people working on that project had those kinds of connections.

The vehicle was rebuilt and modified for further test flights. Why it crashed was because a chase helicopter was blocking the pilot's view of the landing line and he released the landing gear a bit too low. the gear smacked into the ground, unable to lock down and the vehicle rolled. It's been theorized that if he hadn't released the landing gear the M2-F2 might have simply skidded along on its belly.

Gregg Eshelman

"The space race will never fully succeed until the poorest can share a ship with everyone else." ... by that argument, civil aviation hasn't succeeded :)

Using Kickstarter for a space project is interesting ... I hope they succeed!

Stan Sieler

It is time to build a fusion-powered starship to take us away from Earth. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSkxPghXTCg


Thanks for all of your comments everyone.

@Slowburn - The current Hermes model is indeed a prototype. We are developing key subsystems and demonstrating our build capability before we go out and assembling the entire vehicle and do flight testing. It's really the only way we can make progress with our limited budget. That's why we're excited about our Kickstarter project. We have a full engine core design ready to go and start testing; with that amount of funding we could iterate through our design process the way we really want to.

Mark Longanbach

Looks like the Top Gear space shuttle... hope it performs better.


Tom Mc
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