The spacecraft looks like an ordinary business jet and unlike the commercial spaceship company, Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, is able to take off from a conventional airfield.
The space plane can carry a pilot and four passengers.
The first commercial flight of the space plane is scheduled for 2012 and the trip will cost space tourists approximately $260,000. EADS Astrium plans on building 20 space planes in its first production series and capturing about 30% of the space tourism market by 2012.
With the help of turbojet engines, the plane takes off and climbs to an altitude of 12 km (7 miles). This smooth ascent lasts for 45 minutes. At this point, the pilot shuts down the jets and starts the methane oxygen rocket engine at the rear of the vehicle. The plane then raises along a vertical trajectory. For 90 seconds of flight with a top speed of Mach 3, the plane is rocketed upwards. The maximum acceleration is 3 g (30 m/s²). At an altitude of 60 km (37 miles), the rocket engine is shut down and the plane continues to climb up to a maximum altitude of 100 km (62 miles).
This threshold is considered to be the lower boundary of space and where the weightlessness phase begins. It is anticipated that passengers will be free to fly around the cabin and enjoy a stunning view of the Earth in 15 windows. This phase doesn't continue long however, the fun only lasts three to five minutes.
The plane then descends to 15 km (9 miles) at a high angle of attack, being progressively decelerated by the atmosphere. At this altitude, after transition to aeronautical mode, the jets are reignited to bring the plane back to a classical landing strip.
Looks like space travel isn't such a far fetched idea anymore and ticket prices are becoming more reasonable. Are you ready to take a ride into space? courtesy of etoday More Excellent Intergalactic Posts: Hi-Def Pics - Space Exploration and the International Space Station (11 photos) Hi-Def Pics - The Sun and All Its Glory (11 photos) Back to theMET Homepage