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Russian group unveils suborbital spacecraft prototype
Posted: Fri, Mar 15, 2002, 8:07 AM ET (1307 GMT)
Cosmopolis 21 spacecraft (Space Adventures Ltd.) A Russian company displayed Thursday a prototype for a proposed suborbital spacecraft that could transport space tourists. The Cosmopolis 21 (C-21), designed by Myasishchev Design Bureau (MDB), would be carried aloft on top of a M-55 Geophysika aircraft, a plane similar to the American U-2. The C-21 would detach from the aircraft at an altitude of 20 km and fire its rocket engines to enter a suborbital trajectory with a peak altitude of 100 km before gliding to a landing. Space Adventures, a US space tourism company that is a partner in the Cosmopolis venture, plans to market the vehicle for space tourism flights; the C-21 can carry three people. MDB, the builder of the C-21, is best known as the designer of Buran, the Soviet space shuttle mothballed after a single unmanned flight. Building and testing the first C-21 is estimated to cost $10 million, with $60 million required to acquire a fleet of two M-55 aircraft and seven C-21 spacecraft. The C-21 is also an entry in the X Prize competition, which offers a $10 million prize for the first privately-developed vehicle capable of carrying three people to an altitude of 100 km twice in a two-week period.
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