A CGI illustration of the Ascender, a sub-orbital spaceplane proposed by David AshfordTo get their first airliner off the ground, Bristol Spaceplanes are seeking £10,000 of investment with a Crowdfunder campaign lasting 6 weeks.

Launched by David Ashford in 1991, Bristol SpacePlanes (BSP) has been working to slash the costs of space access using already available technology.

Travelling to space hotels could be possible within 15 years, David claims, if ideas originally explored in the 1960s were revisited today.

“The main barrier is not the technology, but changing people’s mindset,” David said. “The technology is proven – it’s just a case of getting people to believe.”

“The technology is proven – it’s just a case of getting people to believe”


You can see the Spaceplanes Crowdfunder video below:

The Ascender (pictured top right) was featured in the UK Government review of commercial spaceplane certification and operations earlier this year, and an independent review commissioned by the UK minister for space “did not identify any fundamental flaws” in its design.

The biggest challenges facing BSP are not technical, David explained, but ideological. Aircraft manufacturers in Europe and the USA originally explored spaceplanes in the 1960s, but abandoned research when cold war tensions began to escalate.


Investor appeal

In fact, David expects BSP’s projects to appeal to investors thanks to a potentially high return; whereas space travel has traditionally relied on ballistic missile systems, space planes will turn the ‘throwaway’ paradigm on its head by operating fully reusable orbital missions at minimum development cost and risk.

“If our plans come to fruition, Bristol could become the leading space city”


Sketches of the Bristol SpacePlane Ascender, Spacecab and SpacebusBSP expect that a three-step development programme beginning with the sub-orbital Ascender, onward to the Spacecab and finally the 50-seater Spacebus will gradually make space travel a more viable option for investment from tourism companies, space agencies and satellite operators.

Space tourism

Speaking about potential scepticism from the public, David said: “We think that space tourism will sell itself.

“Most astronauts can’t wait to go to space again, and say that it was a transforming experience. The views of the Earth from afar, playing around in zero-g, and the clear views of outer space provide endless fascination.”

David originally moved to Bristol to work on Concorde. He said: “I called my company Bristol SpacePlanes to align with Bristol’s tradition, now a century old, of being a leading aerospace city.

“If our plans come to fruition, Bristol could become the leading space city.”

If you’re excited about the idea of jetting off to a space hotel, Crowdfunder pledges start at £5. David’s book Space Exploration was published by Hodder & Stoughton last year as part of their ‘All That Matters’ series.