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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 18:04 GMT
Russia unveils tourists' spaceship
Life-sized mock-up of C-XXI space ship, BBC
C-XXI makers say there is a huge market for space tourism
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By Caroline Wyatt
BBC Moscow correspondent
A US-Russian company has unveiled the prototype of the world's first reusable spaceship aimed at space tourists.

Dennis Tito (left), the first paying space tourist, BBC
Tito (left) paid about $20m for his space voyage
It expects the real thing to be ready for its first commercial flight by the end of 2004.

The ship, C-XXI, can take three passengers at an expected cost of around $100,000 for each ticket, and the company says it already has financial backing from investors in the United States and Asia.

The makers of this new spaceship believe there is a huge untapped market of would-be space tourists - ordinary people willing to pay for the holiday of a lifetime.

Short flights

At the moment, space travel is out of reach for all except professional astronauts, or multi-millionaires.

Three minutes in space. It's our technical requirement and from separation to landing... 20 minutes, 25 minutes, three minutes weightlessness

Sergei Kostenko, Suborbital Corporation
Dennis Tito, the world's first space tourist, spent about $20m for his package deal with the Russians, to travel to the International Space Station (ISS).

This new ship would make it slightly more affordable.

The prototype looks like a small aeroplane, and is fully automatic.


The idea is that passengers could take the controls as it is launched into space, to the lowest orbit just over 100 kilometres above the Earth.

The makers of the capsule admit the trip would be brief.

"Three minutes in space. It's our technical requirement and from separation to landing... 20 minutes, 25 minutes, three minutes weightlessness," said Sergei Kostenko, of Suborbital Corporation, the US-Russian private firm behind the project.

So, just three minutes to experience the thrill of space - of weightlessness looking down at the Earth below - before the craft descends.

It may sound like an expensive holiday, but the company has the financial backing for the first working model.

It also has 250 potential space tourists already signed up to boldly go to tourism's final frontier.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
It will be a short thrill
See also:

05 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Last day in orbit for space tourist
19 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Space tourist rebuts criticism
03 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Space tourist dispute deepens
02 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Space tourists queue up
30 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
'I love space' says pioneer tourist
23 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Mir falls to Earth
13 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Russia's satellites are 'obsolete'
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