The aerospace company EADS Astrium has announced the creation
of a new spacecraft for space tourism. This new Astrium space
plane was displayed at a special VIP event in Paris. The Astrium
space plane is the same size as a business jet and can hold
four people up to 60 miles in space allowing for over three
minutes of zero gravity or "weightlessness."
The Astrium space plane will launch and land in the traditional
fashion from an airport using jet engines.
Once the vehicle is airborne and is approximately 7 miles
in the air, the rocket engines will be lit to provide enough
acceleration to reach approximately 60 miles.
To ensure passenger comfort and safety, the seats in the
Astrium space jet are extremely inventive and will balance
themselves so that the effect of the moving spacecraft is
minimized. The Astrium system then shuts down as the idleness
carries it to suborbital space. This is when the passengers
will be some of the few to delight in the experience of zero
Using small rocket thrusters, the pilot will handle the space
plane allowing passengers to experience weightlessness for
three minutes while giving them an amazing picture of Earth.
It will truly be unlike anything they have ever experienced.
The Astrium space plane will slow down while descending and
the engines will be restarted to ensure a safe and normal
landing at a conventional airport.
The whole trip will take about an hour and a half. Astrium
is proposing something that is called the 'one stage system'
due to the fact that this will provide the most safety and
also be the most practical to operate. With development beginning
in 2008, the first flight will be possible by 2012.
The main source of funding for the project will come from
private sources as this will be a commercial project. The
whole cost of the project is equal to about $1.3 billion and
could be paid through loans and funding from regional development.
The return on the funding will be large with the emerging
and promising market of space tourism as the initial cost
of a ticket will be for the very rich, about $175,000 to $220,000.
Astrium is an individually owned subsidiary of EADS and is
committed providing space tourism services. In 2006, Astrium's
turnover was $4 billion and had 12,000 employees in France,
the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The
focus of EADS Astrium is on three activities and these include
the business units of Astrium Space Transportation for launchers
and orbital infrastructure, Astrium Satellites for the spacecraft
and ground segments, and lastly the individually owned subsidiary
Astrium Services for creating and providing for satellite
and space services.