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California aerospace company unveiling new rocket for space tourism

March 26, 2008. Los Angeles, CA - A California aerospace company plans to enter the space tourism industry.


March 26, 2008
By John Antczak

March 26, 2008. Los Angeles, CA – A California aerospace company plans to enter the
space tourism industry with a two-seat rocket ship capable of
suborbital flights to altitudes more than 60 kilometres above the
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.

The company also said that, pending the outcome of negotiations,
the Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded it a research contract
to develop and test features of the Lynx. No details were released.

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.

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Xcor intends to be a spaceship builder, with another company
operating the Lynx and setting 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 61,000 metres,
then descend in a circling glide to a runway landing.

Shaped something like a bulked-up version of the Rutan-designed
Long-EZ homebuilt aircraft, its wings will be located toward the
rear of the fuselage, with vertical winglets at the tips.

Powered by clean-burning, fully reuseable, 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.

Greason said the Lynx will provide affordable access to space for
individuals and researchers, and future versions will offer improved
capabilities for research and commercial uses.

Xcor has spent nine years developing rocket engines in a facility
down the flightline from

Rutan's Scaled Composites LLC 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 100
kilometres and 111 kilometres and winning the $10 million Ansari X
Prize.

Powered by a hybrid engine _ the gas nitrous oxide combined with
rubber as a solid fuel _ SpaceShipTwo will be flown by two pilots
and carry up to six passengers who will pay about $200,000 apiece
for the ride.

Like its predecessor, SpaceShipTwo will be taken aloft by a
carrier airplane and then released before firing its rocket engine.
Virgin Galactic says passengers will experience about 4 1/2 minutes
of weightlessness and will be able to unbuckle themselves to float
in the cabin before returning to Earth as an unpowered glider.

Xcor's Lynx also is intended to return as a glider but with the
capability of restarting its engine if needed.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS