EADS Astrium displays space plane

 - February 2, 2010, 7:56 PM

EADS Astrium (Stand H23) is displaying a model of its proposed Space Plane, which would require seven years of development between actual program launch and first commercial flight. Hugues Laporte-Weywada, the company’s senior vice president for industrial globalization, told AIN that Astrium’s goal is to produce a certified aircraft that would be more flexible than the in-development Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, and could reach an altitude of 330,000 feet.

The Space Plane is the size of a Gulfstream or Falcon business jet. Its two air-breathing engines would thus be taken from an existing business jet application. For the second phase of the flight, beginning at 40,000 feet, a 100,000-pound-class rocket engine using liquid methane and oxygen would take over. Laporte-Weywada said a certified craft could take off from any international airport.

Astrium would need “dozens” of Space Planes to break even, he added.
A full-size mockup of the cabin was displayed at the Paris Air Show in 2007 but the efforts on the program have slowed down since, as the global downturn has hit potential customers, Laporte-Weywada said. “The market will emerge one day or another,” he said. Applications are expected to be for both tourism and scientific flights.

To experience space and zero gravity, a passenger would have to pay $280,000, Astrium estimated.