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$35m for Excalibur Almaz week in orbit

Armed with a 2007 market study that indicates annual revenues of $1 billion, space tourism company Excalibur Almaz is offering a week in orbit for $35 million from 2013.

The company expects to have a test flight in 2013 and then slowly build the frequency of service of its Almaz spacecraft.

Two passengers will fly with a pilot-cosmonaut in its reusable capsule and expendable habitable service module. Eventually Excalibur hopes to earn $1 billion a year by launching up to 30 people into orbit at $35 million each.

The company is named after the 1970s Soviet Almaz military programme that flight-tested the capsule with a reusable hull and heat shield.

EADS Astrium is working on habitable service module concepts for Excalibur, which is also looking for new avionics and a life support system for the capsule.

The updated Almaz spacecraft would launch from Russia's Baikonur spaceport using either a Khrunichev Space Center Proton or Samara Space Center Soyuz FG, which is used for the Energia Soyuz spacecraft.

For a 2013 test flight Excalibur will have to select either rocket by late 2010.

Former NASA astronaut and now Excalibur's executive vice-president for technical operations Leroy Chiao says: "We have had preliminary talks with Roscosmos."

He adds that at the Moscow air show 2009, Russian Federal Space Agency head Anatoly Perminov "publicly pledged to support our project".

Chiao says that the 2007 study is being updated by marketing company Futron, which produced a suborbital and orbital market report in 2002.

That 2002 report said a $300 million orbital tourism market could exist by 2021 with 60 customers a year. Updated figures for the 2002 study were made public by Futron in 2006.

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