Future High-Altitude Flight - an Attractive Commercial Niche? was a 12-month, €127,000 ($170,000) European Union Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) project that ended in October 2007. It concluded that a European air-launched suborbital tourism vehicle was feasible and made technical recommendations.

In 2007 the Survey of European Privately-Funded Vehicles for Commercial Human Space Flight was a €150,000 European Space Agency project that examined UK space tourism company Starchaser Industries as an example of entrepreneurial suborbital operators.

Since January 2007 Swedish Space has completed a study into how to turn part of its Esrange test range, near Kiruna city, into a spaceport. SSC recommended that suborbital vehicles be treated as sounding rockets under Swedish law as there was no applicable European legislation.

In mid-2008 the European Aviation Safety Agency studied what existing air transport legislation would apply to suborbital vehicles. It concluded certification would be necessary for operations, flightcrew and passenger licensing and continued airworthiness.

The UK government's Science and Technology Facilities Council examined the country's launch licensing laws with respect to suborbital tourism. It recommended a phased approach to drawing up new rules to allow the industry to grow.

The EU's three-year FP6 €7 million Long Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies (Lapcat) project ended in April 2008. It looked at supersonic combustion, engine nozzles, intakes, heat exchangers and airframes.

In 2008 ESA produced a position paper offering to support a European space tourism industry by facilitating workshops, meetings and possibly providing astronaut training.

The EU's follow-on Seventh Framework Programme Lapcat II project, which started in October 2008, costs €10 million and lasts for four years, will examine the first project's hydrogen-fuelled Mach 5 and M8 vehicles in more detail.

Source: Flight International