The UK's Starchaser Industries, a contender for the $10 million X-Prize, and which is aiming to develop a space tourist service, is preparing for the second phase of its $80,000 Nova 2 single-crewed capsule drop-tests at Red Lake, Arizona.

This follows two initial drop-tests in July, piloted by Ted Strong of Strong Enterprises, developing a 92m2 (990ft2) canopy, which was selected after a series of Nova 1 crewed drop-tests using a standard canopy with airbags to cushion the impact indicated that a steerable square chute system with landing gear wheels would be preferable.

The Nova 2 capsule with the new chute was dropped from a C123 aircraft at 10,000ft (3,050m), after which it was decided to develop a larger drogue chute as a result of a line-twist problem.

The next series of drop-tests this year will be piloted by Steve Bennett, Starchaser's founder, who plans to develop a three-seater Thunderbird capsule to make a suborbital spaceflight to a minimum altitude of 100km (62 miles) twice in two weeks to win the X-Prize.

Bennett will fly either a single-crewed sub-orbital test flight in a Nova 2 himself on a Nova booster or with a three-man crew.

Starchaser has already flown the Nova solid-propellant suborbital rocket unmanned - the largest to be flown from the UK mainland.

Source: Flight International