UAV Corp. is opening a new division within their Gulf County operations that aims to use their existing airship technology to make space travel more accessible, the company announced on Dec. 21.
The new division, the Space Division for Space Tourism, is not the first to venture into taking tourists to space, but UAV Corp’s CEO, Mike Lawson, said he hopes by lowering the cost of the travel that the company can remain competitive.
“After the successful flight tests of the Air Force prototype electric airship in September 2021, UAV Corp’s Skyborne Technology continued its effort to develop a ‘SkySpace’ airship that would be designed to take tourists to space at a low cost,” Lawson said.
While UAV Corp’s $50,000 goal for per passenger cost is still very expensive, it is somewhere between a fifth and a ninth of the cost of similar travel with other companies, depending on the travel date.
“Our company is at the beginning of our growth stage that other commercial space tourism companies were a couple years ago,” said Billy Robinson, the company’s chairman, in a press release. “The goal is to target our cost per passenger to under $50,000 a person opening up the space experience to what we are dubbing the ‘People’s Space Experience.’”
Some of the systems that will be onboard the SkySpace airship will be tested in the first half of 2022 with the launch of the new SA 70-12 DATT airship under contract with Gulf Coast State College, funded by Florida’s Triumph Fund.
It has been a year and a half since Wewahitchka-based Skyborne Technologies, which is owned by UAV Corp., began work on the DATT SA-70-12, which aims to improve communication abilities during natural disasters.
In September, the airship underwent a successful test flight, and Lawson said that involved parties began to consider the technology’s potential applications for space travel.
Jim McKnight, the executive director of Gulf County Economic Coalition, said that the project’s aims align with a growing aerospace industry in the area.
“The expansion of the current Skyborne Technology’s airship design to include near space opportunities aligns with the region’s blossoming aerospace industry that is home to two air force bases and a myriad of new development companies,” he said. “The location of their facilities near the college training programs and a stone’s throw from an Eglin Air Force base down range site designated as a launch facility provide for some interesting possibilities.”