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Fri, Sep 17, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Boeing plans to start commercial flights into space

Reuters, ATLANTA, Georgia

Boeing Co plans to offer passengers the chance to fly into space on a craft it is developing for travel in low-Earth orbit, the aerospace company said on Wednesday.

Boeing said it reached an agreement with Virginia-based Space Adventures to market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard Boeing’s CST-100 space vehicle being developed for NASA.

The spacecraft could carry seven people and fly in low-Earth orbit as soon as 2015, Boeing said. The company added that potential customers could include private individuals, companies, non-governmental organizations and US federal agencies.

Space Adventures said it had arranged for seven spaceflight participants to fly on eight missions to the International Space Station.

The companies said during a conference call that pricing for the planned space flights had not been set, but were expected to be competitive.

Guy Laliberte, founder of Canada’s Cirque du Soleil, paid more than US$35 million to travel into space last year on a Russian spaceship from Kazakhstan.

The US space shuttle program, which carries astronauts and supplies to the International Space Space, is being shut down next year. US President Barack Obama’s administration has launched an initiative to replace NASA-owned and operated launch services with commercial space taxis.

Until a replacement vehicle is ready, the US will be solely dependent on Russia to fly crews to the International Space Station, a US$100 billion project involving 16 nations, which has been under construction 352 km above Earth since 1998.

Russia currently charges NASA about US$51 million per seat for a ride on its Soyuz spacecraft. The price goes up to US$56 million in 2013.

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