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First private space shuttle unveiled

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  • Jeroen Kumeling
    Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 19:15 GMT No part of the Roton will be thrown away after space flights
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 1999
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      Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 19:15 GMT
      <
      First private space shuttle unveiled

      <Picture>
      No part of the Roton will be thrown away after space flights
      <Picture>
      A prototype of the world's first privately-financed space shuttle was
      unveiled at the Mojave Spaceport, California. It was described as both a
      "revolution" and a "traffic cone with helicopter blades".


      <Picture><Picture>The BBC's James Wilkinson: "It will take off like a
      rocket and land like a helicopter"The Roton Advanced Test Vehicle will only
      test the landing strategy of the craft, which uses rotary blades in
      combination with thrusters. The final craft will carry two human pilots and
      will take off using kerosene-fuelled rockets to deliver satellites into
      orbit.


      <Picture><Picture>Video simulation of the RotonA completed Roton will blast
      into space, release a satellite into low-level orbit and return the same
      day by summer 2000, said Gary Hudson, president of the Rotary Rocket
      Company which is building the Roton.


      <Picture: [ image: The rotors are only deployed before landing]>The rotors
      are only deployed before landingRick Tumlinson, president of the Space
      Frontier Foundation said: "The rollout of the Roton represents the
      beginning of a new era in access to space. If this project is successful it
      will open the high frontier not just to astronauts, but for ticket
      purchasing passengers - and within a couple of years - not decades."

      Techno-thriller novelist Tom Clancy is a Roton investor and said: "It's our
      job as citizens to make space the place where people work. What opened the
      West wasn't wagons, it was railroads and Roton is the railroad of the
      future."


      <Picture><Picture>David Wade of Kingston University says the Roton can
      workAlso among the 1,200-person crowd were NASA chief engineer Daniel
      Mulville and Patricia Smith, Associate Administrator of Commercial Space
      Transportation at the US Federal Aviation Authority.

      Cutting launch costs

      The Roton is 19m (64 feet) high and will deploy the rotor blades during
      re-entry. Thrusters will be fired 150m (500 feet) above the landing site.
      The thrusters speed up the blades and make the Roton hover. Tests of the
      landing system are scheduled to begin in March 1999.


      <Picture: [ image: Gary Hudson introduces the Roton]>Gary Hudson introduces
      the RotonThe final version will be about half the weight of a jumbo
      jetliner and will carry a 3,150kg (7,000 pound) payload into space at
      27,200 kph (17,000 mph). Its pilots would be the first privately-funded
      astronauts.

      The Rotary Rocket Company believes that using kerosene fuel, rather than
      costly liquid hydrogen, will cut launch costs by 90%. The current cost of
      putting a satellite into space is about $10,000 per pound weight. They hope
      the Roton will cut the cost to $1,000 per pound.

      The company receives no government funding and plans to finish the $130m
      project with money raised from investors. Customers will pay about $7m per
      flight, compared with the current $50m average for satellite launches said
      Geoffrey Hughes, a Rotary Rocket spokesman.
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