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Skylon - the British answer for space tourism on a budget
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The UK's new space agency is aiming high in its first year, calling for interest in partners to develop a plane that can launch into space from a runway.

The UKSA was formed on April 1 this year at a cost of £40 million ($66 million) and drawing in some £230 ($380 million) in funds from the several existing UK space organisations it replaces.

According to the UKSA website, it plans to grow the UK's current space program into a "£40bn a year" enterprise, increasing jobs in the sector from 68,000 to 100,000 within 20 years.

It's had no problems getting press publicity for its first big project.

Named "Skylon", the revolutionary spaceplane looks like it should be driven by a Bond nemesis and promises to "slash the cost of space travel", according to The Sun.

The Australian, 8 Dec 2009End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
The Skylon - a 90m craft with no external tanks or rockets - will be able to take off and land on a runway.

The engine is developed by Oxfordshire-based workshop Reaction Engines, which claims there will be global demand for up to 90 of the Skylons at around £700 million each.

"No other technology we know of is nearly as good," creator Alan Bond told The Sun.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Skylon - apart from the British optimism that it will be successful - is the fact that it will be pilotless.

Each flight will cost around £6.3 million and carry up to 24 passengers - just a touch over £260,000 per passenger.

Currently, it costs well into the millions to book a flight on a space craft, although Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic hopes to bring the costs down to around £125,000 by the time it launches.

THE UKSA is this week hosting a workshop aimed at attracting help to develop the Skylon commercially.

It says the Skylon could also be used for missions to the International Space Station and Mars.


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