The maiden flight of US space tourism company Sprague Astronautics’ single-stage Altairis rocket has been delayed to the first quarter of 2007. The launch was to take place from Cape Canaveral, Florida in December, but a financial restructuring forced by investors led to the delay.

Investors demanded that prospective space tourism company Aera be merged with its sister companies, which include Sprague Astronautics. Altairis is to use the company’s 40,000lb-thrust (178kN) RLE-40 liquid-oxygen/kerosene rocket. “We expect to run the engine test in the next 60 days,” says president and chief scientist Bill Sprague.

The test might take place at NASA Stennis Space Center or a private site in Texas. The Altairis will fly from Florida Space Authority’s Cape Canaveral site, launching vertically and carrying six passengers and a mission commander. It will land horizontally using a parafoil and airbags.

For $250,000, a passenger could fly to 130km (80 miles) altitude on a 30min computer-controlled flight. At its apogee, gas jets will re-orientate the vehicle for re-entry. Once it descends to 25,000ft (7,625m), the parafoil will be released.

■ Launch provider UP Aerospace’s maiden flight of its Spaceloft sounding rocket, planned for 27 March, has been delayed by three months because construction of its launch pad at New Mexico’s planned South West Regional spaceport is not complete.

Source: Flight International