Developing a Virtual Reality simulator for Low Earth Orbit space travel



XCOR Aerospace was an American private spaceflight and rocket engine development company based at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, Midland International Air and Spaceport in Midland, Texas, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. XCOR was formed in 1999 by former members of the rocket engine development team at Rotary Rocket.

XCOR’s Lynx spaceplane was planned to be capable of carrying a pilot and a passenger or payload on sub-orbital spaceflights over 100 kilometres (62 mi). Between 20 and 50 test flights of Lynx were planned, along with numerous static engine firings on the ground. A full step-by-step set of taxi tests, runway hops and full-up flights were planned to get the vehicle to a state of operational readiness.

The Lynx spaceplane under development


Traditional Simulators are expensive, difficult to customize and require the user to travel to a specific, dedicated location. XCOR wanted a simulation that could be easily delivered to the end user, increasing the size of their audience. They envisioned an experience that could simulate the cabin experience and all phases of the flight.

Traditional marketing and corporate overview materials couldn’t convey the wonder and excitement of a simulator. XCOR engaged Agency 39A to develop a virtual reality simulator to engage investors, educators, partners, and potential passengers.

The VR simulator accurately recreated the control of the Lynx spaceplane pictured above


Agency 39A leveraged design thinking, research, strategic planning, user experience design, product design, and front-end development to reveal opportunities that leveraged emerging technologies including Mixed Reality and Virtual Reality simulators

A redesigned web experience provided public access to the VR simulator, videos, and educational media

Our teams conducted design research with the Chief Pilot, XCOR leadership, and end-users and determined that a Virtual Reality Simulator was the right solution for creating a realistic, portable simulator. We translated the physical Lynx cockpit into a VR-ready 3D asset, creating an accurate mockup of the seating configuration, controls, displays, and canopy.

The VR environment was constructed in Unity and developed for the Oculus headset, and the application was thoroughly tested with our core audience and initial stakeholders.


The Virtual Reality simulator was a successful fundraising and educational tool. It was leveraged to develop new strategic partnerships with universities, individual investors, and strategic partners. Preo-perational missions and events included XCOR Space Expeditions training missions with space simulators and G-Force Fighter Jet flights for ticketholders.

Approximately 282 people pre-purchased tickets for a Lynx ride.

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