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'Spaceplane' for tourists to be available in 10 years

An artistic representation of Skylon spaceplane.

LONDON (PTI): Scientists have developed a "spaceplane" that can take off from an ordinary airport runway and carry tourists from Earth, an engineering feat which they claim could become a commercial reality within a decade.

According to the scientists, the special unpiloted "Skylon spaceplane", built at a cost of 700 million pounds, can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.

Costing about 6.3 million pounds per flight, the 270 - ft-long craft can carry 24 passengers into space. It has no external rockets and two engines use hydrogen and oxygen to propel it more than 18 miles into space, 'The Daily Telegraph' newspaper reported.

The craft has been developed by the Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines with support from the UK space agency.

Richard Varvill, the technical director and one of the founders of Reaction Engines, believes his company's craft will revolutionise space travel.

"Access to space is extraordinarily expensive, yet there's no law of physics that says it has to be that way.

"We just need to prove it's viable. The simple truth is that the Earth is part of a much bigger system. We’re talking a bit of science fiction now, but in theory there's nothing that stops you going out (into space).

"You can imagine a situation when some of our industrially important but polluting processes are done in space and the finished products are brought back down to Earth," he was quoted as telling 'The Engineer' magazine.

Officials from the UK Space Agency believe it can revolutionise space travel and significantly cut its cost by taking advantage of newly developed technology. They say it could one day replace NASA's Space Shuttle to transport 12 tonnes of cargo and astronauts to International Space Station.

Reaction Engines said it will take 10 years to develop, leaving Britain to become the first country in the world to launch a spaceplane in orbit.


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