For awhile, MVB has been advocating making Miami the first city in the world to offer daily flights into space for the common man. Despite a nearly forgotten two mile long landing strip sitting in the middle of the Everglades which could be used to launch and retrieve Virgin Galactic designs immediately-- if the rocketplanes were available-- the state and county's less than enthusiastic response has allowed New Mexico to get the jump on being the first place in history to offer these daily space flights.
Until now. The Paris based European company EADS Astrium announced yesterday that they will be building a "space jet" which will be able to do something the Virgin Galactic team wasn't pursuing-- taking off and landing from commercial airports. The EADS Astrium approach also differs in the design of the aircraft. Instead of using a small vessel attached to a large plane with an unpowered free-fall back from space (Virgin Galactic and the space shuttle) , the Astrium will be a single aircraft using jet engines upon takeoff and landing and rocket engines for the final boost into suborbital space. Because it will use jet engines for a controlled flight back to the airport, it removes the necessity to surround the launch site with thousands of unpopulated acres as required by the space shuttle and Virgin Galactic and opens flying into space for every airport.
Miami should make every effort to stage the first multi-passenger fee paying space flight scheduled for 2012. The county and the city ought to form a delegation and travel to Paris to sell them on making that happen. Since it won't be easy convincing Europeans to launch the first space jet outside of Europe, the delegation should be willing to make some major concessions, i.e., giving up space at Opa Locka Airport to assemble the prototype and test fly it. Right now, there is an EADS office in Houston. The delegation ought to be willing to give EADS "free room and board" to move it to Opa Locka. In so doing, Opa Locka Airport finds a new purpose and revitalizes the economy. A little showmanship wouldn't hurt either by combining the first flight with a new Orange Bowl Parade whose theme for 2012 might be "Fly Me To The Moon!" As we like to say here, it only takes a little vision.
Click here to see a video presentation of the EADS Astrium vision.