Their spaceship is still under wraps, but 100 space buffs are beginning training for the ride of a lifetime.

To Ride on This...

In preparation for a suborbital jaunt aboard an air-launched rocketship, passengers this month are to report to a private training institute in Pennsylvania known as the National Aerospace Training and Research Center, or NASTAR.

NASTAR’s parent company, Environmental Tectonics Corp., won an exclusive training services contract with Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of Richard Branson’s London-based Virgin Group, which plans to operate a fleet of commercial spaceliners for joy rides, scientific research and commercial endeavors.

The kick of a rocket used to catapult a ship into space can leave passengers wishing they’d never left the ground, and with ticket prices going for $200,000 apiece, Virgin wants to be sure customers don’t spend their few minutes in space with their head in a bag.

"Motion sickness is mostly psychological," said Alex Howerton, a long-time space aficionado who serves as NASTAR’s business development director. "You say ‘sickness’ and it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy."
The basic spaceflight training program lasts two days and includes technical overviews about the launch process, flight and landing, as well as practice runs in specially designed centrifuge that can exactly replicate the motions of individual space vehicles.

The more realistic the training, the better the chance of avoiding queasiness during liftoff and flight, Howerton said.

"It’s almost like training for a marathon," Howerton said. "We spin you up, back you down and every time we spin you up again we take you a little bit farther."

"We hope to give you the confidence that you don’t have to be sick," he added. "You can actually control your bodily functions."

The training center is holding its official grand opening on Oct. 4.

ETC decided to get into the spaceflight training business after providing a centrifuge to Malaysia to train its first astronaut, who is scheduled to fly on a Russian Soyuz rocket next month for a week-long stay at the International Space Station.

The training ships are based on SpaceShipOne, a prototype that three years ago clinched a $10-million prize for a series of private, piloted suborbital spaceflights. Noted aircraft designer Burt Rutan created the vehicle, with backing from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Branson then partnered with Rutan’s firm, Scaled Composite, to create larger versions of the single-seater for commercial passenger service, which is scheduled to begin flights in 2009 from California’s Mojave Desert.

Via: Discovery Channel