Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Heavyweight Enters the Space Tourism Race

The European aerospace giant EADS has entered the race to build a practical space tourism craft. Designing and building such craft (none of which has flown yet) has so far been the province of small and medium-size enterprises, most of them startups. EADS's Astrium division, prime contractor for the Ariane booster family, plans a craft with both jet and rocket engines, capable of landing and taking off conventionally and taking a pilot and four passengers to 100km. Astrium Chief Technical Officer Robert Laine took a swipe at his company's American rivals, suggesting most are lacking in the engineering department or in their business models. He said, "There are those who think you can design a rocket plane in a garage. Suffice it to say that that is not our niche." Bert Rutan, developing American rival SpaceShip Two, thinks it's EADS' business model that is lacking, and the European craft will be so expensive to develop that it won't be economically viable. Start your engines....

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