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Deal nearly in place to launch private space planes from old shuttle runway

Posted on July 1, 2013

A new breed of vacationers – space tourists – could launch from Central Florida as soon as 2015 under an agreement that would put Florida officials in charge of the 3-mile runway at Kennedy Space Center that once was used by space shuttles.

The preliminary deal, to be announced Friday by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, would give Space Florida, the state’s public-private promoter of the space industry, control of one of the largest landing strips in the world and one that’s enshrined in space history: Nearly 80 shuttle crews landed there before NASA ended the 30-year program in 2011.

Now it looks likely that the shuttle runway will host a new different type of space traveler: tourists and scientists making suborbital trips on “space planes” that can launch from and land on the big landing strip.

A top executive with the California company XCOR Aerospace, a space-plane builder that has expressed interest in the runway for months, said the preliminary agreement makes it all but certain that it would establish a base at the strip for “participant flights” – perhaps by 2015.

“It’s always been our hope to fly from the shuttle-landing facility, and it looks like that’s starting to materialize,” said Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer of XCOR.

A new XCOR base at Kennedy Space Center could bring as many as 150 jobs by late 2018 – and some wealthy tourists. It costs $95,000 for one seat aboard an XCOR space plane, which is designed to blast a pilot and a tourist as high as 330,000 feet for a five-minute stay in the weightless environment of suborbital space.

Read more at: Phys.org

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