The most exciting announcement for some considerable time is today’s news about the future of Clipper and a completely new post-COVID, 21st Century expansion of the current franchise. In company and close cooperation with the space-orientated entrepreneur, Elong Mask, Clipper Ventures plc is going into space, or to be more precise, into orbit. Low altitude-space orbit racing around the planet.
Today’s announcement confirms speculation that has been rife for some time. Whilst exact details of investment and sponsorship has yet to be announced, the outline plan will see design and build of a first batch of 6 space-shuttle-like Clipper vessels for the first ever orbital race around the globe. This mirrors the first ever terrestrial Clipper Race of six 60ft yachts of Clipper 1995 with the first of 6 space-age developments with obvious potential to build on initial success and grow the fleet size. Tenders for Space-Clipper designs should be complete in about a year with a view to the first “race” in the northern hemisphere spring of 2031, notably the 50th anniversary of the first NASA Shuttle flight. Race start is being planned for 12 April 2031, the anniversary of the first Space Shuttle launch.
Travelling at approximately 17,500 miles per hour it takes about 90 minutes to orbit the earth, or 1 hour 31 minutes and 12 seconds to be a bit more race-precise when every second it likely to count.. The initial Race concept will be 135 orbits or laps of the planet, 135 being the number of Space Shuttle missions flown by the original programme between 1981 and 2011. Orbits will be conducted at a minimum altitude of 190 miles and a maximum altitude of 330 miles above sea level with the effects of gravity having an effect on choice of Race altitude. Race start will be controlled by the International Space Station . Refuelling stops and crew changeovers will also take place using the International Space Station with teams having to pre-programme their dockings in advance in a kind of Clipper-Formula One pit-stop-like event. Obviously programming for such pit-stops and slick drills through intense training will be a key element of race success.
Each crew will consist of 2 trained astronauts as “skipper” and “mate” plus up to 12 crew on each orbit. In a mirror of existing Clipper rules, each team will have at least 6 crew who will pay to complete the entire mission, including launch and landing. The race will require 8 pit-stops (replicating the current 8 legs of the existing Clipper Race) for crew changeovers and re-provisioning at the ISS, meaning that a crew member signing up to complete just a single leg can expect to spend approximately 25 hours in space or approximately 16-17 orbits. Training will follow an intensive 6 month programme and a specific medical and training programme is being negotiated with 5 rival agencies – the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Washington DC, the European Space Agency (ESA) in Paris, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) in Beijing, Roscosmos (the former Russian Federal Space Agency) at their launch complex at Vostochny, and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at Bengaluru. It has not been announced when a final selection will be made.
Crew costs for training and participation are yet to be announced. Speaking about this exciting announcement, Sir Robyn Nox-Johnson , founder of Clipper Ventures plc and the first man to sail single handed non stop around the globe said that this latest evolution of “Clipper” sailing from the Flying Cloud and Cutty Sark through Clipper 60s, Clipper 68s and Clipper 70s to the future Clipper-shuttle represents the next step in man’s inherent desire to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”
I’ll return to the latest update from Subic Bay (received yesterday) in my next blog. In the meantime:
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:
For UNICEF UK see:
Please take a look. Thank You. Happy 1st of April!