updated 6/8/2012 5:21:42 PM ET 2012-06-08T21:21:42

Thrill seekers looking for the ultimate rocket ride may soon turn that dream into a reality aboard a new suborbital spaceship, a winged rocket plane slated to start launching space tourists from California and a tiny Caribbean island by 2014.

The Mojave, Calif.-based XCOR Aerospace is developing the suborbital Lynx space plane to carry paying passengers to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, to altitudes up to and exceeding 62 miles (100 kilometers). XCOR is aiming to begin operational Lynx flights from California's Mojave Spaceport in 2013 and from the Dutch-controlled island of Curacao in the Caribbean a year later, said Andrew Nelson, XCOR's chief operating officer.

XCOR officials unveiled their launch targets Thursday during a news briefing here to announce a new partnership  with Space Expedition Corp. (SXC, formerly Space Expedition Curacao), a Netherlands-based space tourism firm that will now act as the sales agent for future Lynx flights. The swanky event was held at the Park Avenue Armory, where artist Tom Sachs is currently showcasing his "Space Program: Mars" art installation on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

As part of the agreement, SXC will be responsible for selling seats aboard the Lynx space plane for flights departing from Mojave and from the picturesque island of Curacao, a territory that remains under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. [ Photos: XCOR Aerospace's Lynx Space Plane ]

"Today, we are at the dawn of a new space age," Nelson told an audience that included officials from Curacao and the Mojave Spaceport, and Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut and the current president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. "The old ways of government-designed space exploration are slowly drifting away, and a new commercial space industry is being born right before you."

XCOR's two-seat Lynx space plane is designed to carry one pilot and one passenger, making it an intimate and extremely personal journey, he added. The reusable vehicle will be capable of flying up to four flights per day, and is able to take off and land on a conventional airport runway.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the saying 'the sky is the limit' is something of the past," said Abdul Nasser El Hakim, Curacao's minister of Economic Development. "In Curacao, we say 'the space is the limit.'"

Watchmaker Luminox also recently announced a partnership with SXC to provide special timepieces for the firm's space tourists. The watches are being developed to withstand the G-forces that will be encountered during the flight.

A ride aboard Lynx will retail at $95,000, company officials said, which includes the cost of pre-flight training sessions to prepare passengers for the experience. While this may seem like a steep ticket price, it is still cheaper than the company's competitors, such as Virgin Galactic's $200,000 price tag for a seat aboard its SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocket plane.

Virgin Galactic is expected to carry out a series of critical tests later this year and could begin flying paying customers by the end of 2013, company officials have said.

By providing lower cost suborbital flights, XCOR and SXC are hoping to make commercial spaceflight more accessible to the public, said Michiel Mol, CEO of Space Expedition Corp. XCOR and SXC together have taken more than 175 reservations from clients eager to launch aboard the Lynx spacecraft.

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"It's becoming available to all," Nelson of XCOR said. "Space, in a certain era, was something you saw and you were amazed (by), but perhaps you didn't feel like you were really going to be the one to participate in. But now, we can transfer ourselves into the faces and the names and the sights that we're seeing develop in front of us. I think it's going to revolutionize the way we view space, the way we approach space, the way we create new industries."

And as the development of commercial suborbital and orbital vehicles continues at an aggressive pace, the possibilities for this burgeoning private industry are limitless, said Rick Searfoss, a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander, and XCOR's chief test pilot.

"The world, in general, doesn't realize how quickly it will be upon us," Searfoss said. "We just don't know — we cannot imagine what this might lead to. Who knows where we might go, where we might be 20 to 30 years from now?"

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow or @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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