I'm not sure how the private space company Interorbital escaped my attention - I guess their PR isn't as good as SpaceX, Scaled Composites, Bigelow, and Virgin Galactic. They've done some press releases recently but I just noticed them in a blog post at Colony Worlds.
It appears that they have been around since 1996, just down the flight line from Burt Rutan and company in Mojave. They've been building and testing rocket engines, and planning for sea-based launches of microsatellites sometime soon. They are also selling tickets ($2.5 million) for orbital space tourism flights on their Neptune starting in late 2009. These things will launch from the water - not from a boat or sea platform, from the water. Polar launches off the coast of California, equatorial launches from near the Kingdom of Tonga (south Pacific, near Fiji).
But wait. Orbital? Starting in late 2009? And just the other day I said that SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Dragon flight plans sounded like an amazing schedule (unmanned cargo test flight to the ISS by the end of 2009). Interorbital hasn't flown anything yet, but they have passengers signed up, and if the 2009 thing works out (which somehow seems doubtful considering they haven't flown anything yet), they may even beat Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo into commercial service. Of course SS2 is "only" suborbital (and tickets are "only" $200K) and it hasn't flown yet either, but Rutan did do that X-Prize thing in 2004 with SpaceShipOne.
It's looking like the wild wild west out there! I sure hope some of it comes true. Guess I better start saving for one of those later flights (I want to give them time to make sure that "tunnel through the heat shield" thing works out). Interorbital also has some sort of promotion going for a less expensive way to fly ($250,000), something like an expensive lottery I guess. I suppose I'm a bit skeptical because it all comes across as a sort of shoestring operation (a web site can really make an impression), though I really hope it works out as they say. Just the idea that they are talking about orbital vacations starting next year - hey, that's wild.