A California aerospace company plans to enter the space tourism industry with a two-seat rocket ship capable of suborbital flights to altitudes of more than 37 miles (60 kilometers) above Earth.
The Lynx, about the size of a small private plane, is expected to begin flying in 2010, according to developer Xcor Aerospace, which planned to release details of the design at a news conference Wednesday.
Xcor's announcement comes two months after aerospace designer Burt Rutan and billionaire Richard Branson unveiled a model of SpaceShipTwo, which is being built for Branson's Virgin Galactic space tourism company and may begin test flights this year.
Xcor intends to build the Lynx, with another company operating the craft and setting ticket prices.
The Lynx is designed to take off from a runway like a normal plane, reach a top speed of Mach 2 and an altitude of 200,000 feet (60,000 meters) and then descend in a circling glide to a runway landing.
Its wings will be located toward the rear of the fuselage, with vertical winglets at the tips.
Powered by clean-burning, reusable liquid-fuel engines, the Lynx is expected to be capable of making several flights a day, Xcor said.
"We have designed this vehicle to operate much like a commercial aircraft," Xcor Chief Executive Officer Jeff Greason said in a statement.
Lynx vs. SpaceShipTwo
Greason said the Lynx will provide affordable access to space for individuals and scientists, and future versions will offer improved capabilities for research and commercial uses.
Xcor spent nine years developing rocket engines in a facility at the Mojave Airport north of Los Angeles. It has built and flown two rocket-powered aircraft.
SpaceShipTwo is being developed on the success of SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first privately funded, manned rocket to reach space, making three flights to altitudes between 62 and 69 miles (100 and 111 kilometers) and winning the U.S. $10 million Ansari X Prize.
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