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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- Reusable spaceplanes that propel ticket-holding passengers to the edge of space are slowly becoming reality.
Among several firms literally hammering away at this prospect is Rocketplane Limited, Inc., an Oklahoma corporation. The company is eager to make space travel as safe, convenient, and routine as air transportation, with work ramping up on their Rocketplane XP design.
The spaceliner’s first commercial passenger flight is projected to be early 2007.
The plan calls for Rocketplane XP to depart from the Oklahoma Spaceport located in Burns Flat and whisk customers skyward to over 60 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth. At that height, a spectacular view is promised, along with "over the top" weightlessness for up to four minutes. The company also envisions transporting innovative scientific experiments and valuable payloads to sub-orbital space and beyond.
Rocketplane XP and the space tourism business were highlighted here at the Space Technology & Applications International Forum (STAIF), held February 13-17.
"It’s going to be a cool ride…the world’s largest roller coaster. And you get your astronaut wings too," said Charles Lauer, co-founder of the company and director of business development.
Lauer said the Rocketplane team has spent some $4 million over the last 10 months on the project. Total investment is $30 million to get the first XP built, through flight test, and nudging its way into revenue-generating service, he said.
Rocketplane Limited, Inc. has obtained from the State of Oklahoma a $13 million face value Investment Tax Credit to develop a re-usable sub-orbital tourist business at the Oklahoma Spaceport. Rocketplane’s main office and engineering center are based at Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City, and quite appropriately located on Amelia Earhart Lane.
In addition to the XP spaceplane, the company is delving into future space vehicle activity that is expected to have a high return on investment, Lauer explained.