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Space: Branson, Bigelow talking orbiting hotels 2007-05-28 16:00:27
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    BEIJING, May 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Virgin Galactic's chief operating officer revealed Friday at the National Space Society's 26th Annual International Space Development Conference that the suborbital spaceliner research and development company is in talks with space mogul Robert Bigelow to use his expanding modules to create Virgin Galactic orbiting hotels.

    Alex Tai said his boss, Sir Richard Branson, and Bigelow have huddled recently to work out the details. Tai also said the suborbital spaceliner is coming together on various floors at Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif.

    Tai said test flights of SpaceShipTwo -- the passenger carrying ship -- will begin in 2008 and could last between 12 and 18 months.

    "The vehicles are all coming together very well," Tai explained, speaking of both the SpaceShipTwo design and its carrier/drop aircraft, the White Knight 2.

    "Safety is our guiding star," Tai added, saying snags could push operational status of the vehicle into mid-2010.

    Each flight of the SpaceShipTwo is likely to fly some six passengers and two pilots to the edge of space. The first year of suborbital runs are projected to haul some 500 people into space, he said.

    The initial price tag per seat is 200,000 U.S. dollars. But with more innovation that cost could drop to 100,000 dollars, perhaps lower, in later years, Tai suggested.


Editor: Gareth Dodd
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