EADS unveils jet for space tourism
14/06/2007 16:17 PARIS, June 14 (RIA Novosti) -- EADS Astrium, a subsidiary of the European aerospace company (EADS), has unveiled a new vehicle designed to take tourists 100 kilometers (60 miles) up into space.
The vehicle, which is the size of a business jet and can carry four passengers, will offer paying customers more than three minutes of "zero G," or weightlessness. The cost per flight per passenger would be around $200,000-260,000.
The company said the Astrium space jet would take off and land conventionally from a standard airport using its jet engines. However, once the craft is airborne at an altitude of about 12 kilometers (7 miles), its rocket engines will be ignited to give sufficient acceleration to reach an altitude of 100 kilometers.
In only 80 seconds the craft will have climbed to an altitude of 60 kilometers (40 miles). The rocket propulsion system is then shut down as the ship's inertia carries it on to over 100 kilometers, where passengers will experience the weightless environment of space.
The pilot will control the craft using small rocket thrusters enabling passengers to hover weightlessly for three minutes and "to witness the most spectacular view of Earth imaginable," the company said.
After slowing down during descent, the jet engines are restarted for a normal and safe landing at a standard airfield. The entire trip will last approximately an hour and a half.
Astrium said if development begins in 2008, a first commercial flight would be possible by 2012, with private capital being the main source of funding.
Return on investment is expected to come from exploiting the emerging suborbital space tourism market.
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