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Researchers working on aircraft that would send tourists out into space faster than the speed of sound.

The ultimate adventure ride could be coming soon to an airport near you.  It's called "Skylon" and the special aircraft is being developed for commercial use to carry tourists out into space within the next ten years. 

Skylon would take off from a standard airport runway and travel at more than five times the speed of sound, according to the
 Telegraph and Daily Mail. The revolutionary aircraft was developed by Reaction Engines, with support from the new UK space agency. 

The 270 foot-long spaceplane is unpiloted, has no external rockets, and has two engines that use hydrogen and oxygen to propel it more than 18 miles out of the Earth's atmosphere.  

The propulsion and attitude control are provided using computer systems while in orbit.  The engine uses the propulsion to reach the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere before switching to rocket power.

The aircraft – which can can remain operational in orbit for up to seven days – would take off from an airport, fly out into orbit, and then land on the runway. The craft is expected to carry up to 24 passengers into space at a time, revolutionize space travel, and cut costs. 

The reusable spaceplane is intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space within a decade.  

"Access to space is extraordinarily expensive, yet there’s no law of physics that says it has to be that way," said Technical Director and one of the founders of Reaction Engines, Richard Varvill. "We just need to prove it’s viable. The simple truth is that the Earth is part of a much bigger system."

In the future, Skylon could be used in place of NASA's Space Shuttle to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

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Space tourism? Bah. Trans continental instead please.
By gcor on 9/20/2010 6:25:12 AM , Rating: 3
I quite frequently travel from Australia to Europe. At 36 hours door-to-door, it's a hike. Especially with two kids. (I love them, just not quite as much stuck in transit for long periods)

I so wish someone could they make a super quick antipode trip. I read on the hinter-web awhile ago that a scram jet craft would be capable of London to Sydney in 2 hours. And use way less fuel, the biggest cost in long haul flights. Please commercial scram jet travel before space tourism.

I'm a sci-fi head from way back and love the idea of space travel and would pay a fair bit to try it out. But, honestly, the idea of being in a tin can floating around Earth for two weeks sounds horribly boring. Two or three laps around the Earth would be plenty for me! I guess if they provide TONS of in-flight entertainment I'd get through it though.

By HotFoot on 9/20/2010 6:39:09 PM , Rating: 2
I'm afraid the cost of such high-speed intercontinental travel are likely to remain out of the reach of the general public for a long, long time. And without a mass market, the costs get even worse. Most people I know ride economy because it's not worth the extra money for first class - unless you're cashing in rewards miles.

Perhaps what we need, instead of faster-flying vehicles, is something that guarantees comfortable sleep for the duration, with no side effects, and is kids-safe.

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