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Space tourism seen as billion-dollar biz

Aug. 2, 2012 at 6:50 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Commercial spaceflight and space tourism could become a $1.6 billion industry in the next decade, researchers told a congressional committee in Washington.

A joint study by the Tauri Group and the Federal Aviation Administration found there will be enough demand for such spaceflights to fill 400 to 500 seats per year, at an average price of $200,000 per seat, Carissa Bryce Christensen of the Tauri Group said.

Demand at these prices was found to be "genuine, sustained, and ... sufficient to support multiple providers," the study said.

Six private companies are working on suborbital reusable launch vehicles. None has launched a commercial service but at least two, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace, say they plan to initiate flights at the end of 2013, Florida Today reported.

"Space flights have been very rare since its inception," Alan Stern of the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group told members of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Wednesday. "They are about to become routine."

George Whitesides, president of Virgin Galactic, said his company has accepted $70 million in deposits and $107 million in commitments from a total 535 people, including Virgin founder Richard Branson.

"Demand has been extremely encouraging," he said. "We anticipate flying that many people within our first year or two of commercial service."

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