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EADS Astrium

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 gravity.

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.

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