Image: Bennett with capsule
Starchaser Industries  /  AP
Starchaser's chief executive, Steve Bennett, leans against a prototype of his company's space capsule near Las Cruces, N.M.
updated 1/15/2007 11:20:42 PM ET 2007-01-16T04:20:42

Starchaser Industries has received a $200,000 contract from the European Space Agency to submit an analysis of the proposed Thunderstar Starchaser 5 rocket and to develop a business plan on the sustainability of space tourism.

Starchaser spokeswoman Kimmarie Hartley said Monday that the report will explain the company's design for the rocket's capsule in a way that complies with ESA requirements.

"It's a step-by-step verification of our engineering designs," she said.

The contract is part of the ESA's effort to identify privately funded vehicles for human space flight, the company said in a news release.

Starchaser chief executive Steve Bennett said the ESA survey reflects a growing worldwide interest in space tourism and commercially funded space travel. "Investors are looking for the next frontier of profitability and space tourism is getting a lot of attention," Bennett said.

The co company, which has offices in Britain as well as New Mexico, hopes to one day construct a 120-acre "Rocket City" in the desert west of Las Cruces. It would feature rocket production buildings and astronaut training facilities.

The company envisions launches from the New Mexico spaceport north of Las Cruces as early as 2009. The rocket would carry one pilot and two passengers on suborbital spaceflights, then the capsule would return by parachute.

Customers could keep the spacesuit "as a memento of their experience," the company said.

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