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Private space tourism is taking off in Russia with plans to send tourists to near-Earth orbit in spacecraft capable of launching from ordinary airfields, chief designer of NPO Aviation and Space Technologies Aleksandr Begak said.
He told Sputnik news agency the first flights may start in five years and will cost about $200,000 to $300,000 per person.
According to Begak, a number of private companies are currently working on the unmanned spacecraft dubbed Selena Space Yacht. The works are conducted with the support of the National Technology Initiative’s (NTI) AeroNet and SpaceNet working groups.
“We have an opportunity to land on any airfield, the device lands like an airplane… We now calculate the optimal time for space travel, a comfortable flight path, because experience shows that people do not need to be in zero-gravity condition for as long as 10 minutes,” Begak said, adding that the development of the spacecraft began two years ago.
He explained that three “space yachts” will be produced, with six passenger seats and one pilot seat each. Though the spacecraft will be unmanned, a pilot will be present for the convenience of passengers, he said.
The vehicle will enter space at a maximum speed of 2,685 miles per hour to a height of 75 to 87 miles (120-140 kilometers).
Earlier, the co-leader of the working group of the National AeroNet Technology Initiative, Sergey Zhukov, said that Russia could see the start of private space tourism in around five years. Participants will be flying for several minutes to a height of 100km before descending by parachute or engine-powered aircraft, he said.