London: Scientists have developed a
"spaceplane" that can take off from an ordinary airport runway
and carry tourists from Earth, an engineering feat which they
claim could become a commercial reality within a decade.
According to the scientists, the special unpiloted
"Skylon spaceplane", built at a cost of 700 million pounds,
can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.
Costing about 6.3 million pounds per flight, the 270
- ft-long craft can carry 24 passengers into space. It has no
external rockets and two engines use hydrogen and oxygen to
propel it more than 18 miles into space, `The Daily Telegraph`
The craft has been developed by the Oxfordshire-based
Reaction Engines with support from the UK space agency.
Richard Varvill, the technical director and one of
the founders of Reaction Engines, believes his company`s craft
will revolutionise space travel.
"Access to space is extraordinarily expensive,
yet there`s no law of physics that says it has to be that way.
"We just need to prove it`s viable. The simple
truth is that the Earth is part of a much bigger system. We`
re talking a bit of science fiction now, but in theory there`s
nothing that stops you going out (into space).
"You can imagine a situation when some of our
industrially important but polluting processes are done in
space and the finished products are brought back down to
Earth," he was quoted as telling `The Engineer` magazine.
Officials from the UK Space Agency believe it
can revolutionise space travel and significantly cut its cost
by taking advantage of newly developed technology. They say
it could one day replace NASA`s Space Shuttle to transport 12
tonnes of cargo and astronauts to International Space Station.
Reaction Engines said it will take 10 years to
develop, leaving Britain to become the first country in the
world to launch a spaceplane in orbit.