In a nondescript hangar in California’s Mojave Desert, workers at Scaled Composites are assembling SpaceShipTwo, the first spacecraft expressly designed for tourists. The company, which is owned by engineer Burt Rutan, is also building the four-engine plane that will ferry the spaceship to 50,000 ft. After SpaceShipTwo is released from the mother ship, the six passengers will be treated to a Mach 3 burn, straight up, propelled by a mix of nitrous oxide and solid fuel. Then, once the ship crests at 361,000 ft., passengers can float to the windows and gawk for a few minutes before returning to Earth. Spaceship test flights may start in 2009.
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