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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China Plans to Fly Tourists to Space

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing is entering the space tourism industry by developing a spaceplane that could fly several tourists to space.

(Photo : Getty Images) The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing is entering the space tourism industry by developing a spaceplane that could fly several tourists to space.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing is entering the space tourism industry by developing a huge space plane that could fly up to 20 passengers to space, New Scientists reported.

The academy has designed a simple, one-piece space plane that could carry several people, Lui Haiquang, academy rocket scientist, told the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, last week.

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"The vehicle will take off vertically like a rocket and land on the runway automatically without any ground or on-board intervention," Han Pengxin, academy's team leader, said. The space plane will burn liquid methane and liquid oxygen.

The team designed two rockets. The first one has a mass of 10 tons, with a wingspan reaching up to 6 meters. It will have the capacity to fly up to five people at an altitude of 100 kilometers and a speed of Mach 6, giving 2 minutes of weightlessness.

On the other hand, the second design is 10 times heavier at 100 tons and two times wider with a 12-meter wingspan. It could fly 20 people at 130 kilometers at Mach 8, giving 4 minutes of weightlessness. This is huge enough that it could cater some room to deliver small satellites into the orbit through a small rocket stage add-on, according to New Scientist.

"The test flights will be finished in the next two years, because almost all of the ground tests have been finished and all the subsystems of the test vehicle worked very well," Han said.

He further envisioned a space plane being launched in a commercial spaceport with payload launches by the end of the decade. Location of the said spaceport is yet to be decided.

Meanwhile, there are two other companies vying for the business including Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and XCOR, Global News reported.

The plane will start its business once it is considered safe for use, Popular Science noted. In the meantime, interested daredevils should start saving approximately between $200,000 and $250,000 to save a flight seat.

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