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U.S. suborbital spaceship signs up Russian space tourist

RIA Novosti

17:10 11/10/2010

MOSCOW, October 11 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. Armadillo Aerospace company, which is developing the suborbital spaceship for space tourist flights, announced on Monday that a Russian has become its first confirmed passenger.

St Petersburg resident Evgeny Kovalev won his ticket to the cosmos in a contest organized by Efes brewery.

"We plan to hold the first manned flight in 2012," Russia's representative for the firm Space Adventures Sergei Kostenko said. "Before sending the first tourist, we will have to conduct another five-six more test flights."

Currently, there are some 200 applicants for the flights, which will cost around $100,000 a head, Kostenko said.

Kostenko said that Space Adventures is in talks with Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos on sending tourists to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz spacecrafts and did not rule out that a Soyuz tourist spacecraft may be also designed.

Russia is currently the only country that provides space flights for tourists. Tourist can blast off on the Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at a cost of around $30 million.

In 2009, Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's tourism company, unveiled SpaceShipTwo, a commercial six-passenger space vehicle which will take passengers to an altitude of 110 km (68.3 miles) during a 2.5-hour flight with a five-minute period of weightlessness.

Following up to 100 test flights, the first customers are expected to board the craft in 2011, each paying $200,000 for a seat.

A total of 300 people across the world, including at least 11 Russians, have booked tickets for suborbital flights with Virgin Galactic. Another 85,000 people have filed flight applications on the agency's website.

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