LONDON, Sept. 17 (UPI) — British engineers say they believe spacecraft taking off from an ordinary airport runway and carrying tourists into space might be a reality in 10 years.
A British company, Reaction Engines Ltd., is developing a spaceplane it says will travel five times the speed of sound and carry up to 24 passengers and up to 12 tons of cargo into space, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
The unpiloted craft would take off from an airport runway and use its two hydrogen/oxygen engines to propel it more than 18 miles into space.
Each mission of the $1 billion spaceplane would cost about $10 million.
Officials of the U.K. Space Agency, which is supporting Reaction Engine’s research, say it could replace NASA’s Space Shuttle to transport supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station.
“Access to space is extraordinarily expensive, yet there’s no law of physics that says it has to be that way,” said Richard Varvill, technical director and one of the founders of Reaction Engines.
“We’re talking a bit of science fiction now,” he said, “but in theory there’s nothing that stops you going out (into space).”
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