All-European consortium plans suborbital vehicle

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A consortium of five European technology companies claims to be developing a single-stage suborbital spaceplane. Called Project Enterprise, the Swiss, German, and Austrian industrial group says it is developing a two- to five-passenger vehicle powered by three liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket engines.

On a 1h flight the Enterprise vehicle would launch horizontally from a runway and accelerate to Mach 3 and an altitude of 80km (50 miles), where the engines would cut off and the vehicle would coast to 130km. Passengers would experience 5min of weightlessness before the vehicle then re-entered the atmosphere and glided back to land at its take-off runway.

“Scheduling to complete the project [has] a maximum timeframe of…four years,” says Project Enterprise. Husum, Germany-based Talis Institute is one of the five companies, with the other four to be announced next month. No specific spaceport has been announced, but the group intends to have a European location. Tourists will be able to see the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Alps, the UK, central Europe and the northern Mediterranean.