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    MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's "spaceplane" could have been built at least 30 years before America's, believes Academician Ivan Obraztsov, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    Not long ago the United States' Federal Civil Aviation Administration has issued the Scaled Composites Co. the licence for flights of the first private suborbital manned ship SpaceShipOne at an altitude up to 100 kilometers.

    Academician Obraztsov says that, as early as in the 1970s, Russian specialists designed a spaceplane carrying passengers and cargoes at an altitude from 90 to 200 kilometers at up to 30,000 kilometers/hour. The project is still on paper for lack of budgeting.

    The spaceplane, designed to be powered by rocket engines, can well be used for space tourism, he says.

    "A flight from Moscow to New York in our spaceplane will take only 50 minutes, to Tokyo 53 minutes and to Sydney 1 hour 6 minutes", he says.

    "The experimental 1:25-scaled model was flown to success, confirming the correctness of the geometry and design of the suborbital flying machine", Academician Obraztsov says.

    If implemented, the cost of the project's putting one-kilogramme payload to a 200-kilometer altitude will be about 300 dollars in one-stage version and 100 dollars in two-stage version.

    Different tourist versions of the spaceplane have been developed, capable of comfortably moving from six to 1,000 passengers to vast distances at 100-kilometer altitudes at a maximal speed of 30,000 kilometers/hour, Obraztsov said. G-loads during the flight will be insignificant, comparable to those in a high-speed lift.

    The flying saucer-like spaceplane has two tail pylons. In the front of the fuselage, the crew or a cargo will be housed and, in its rear portion, the rocket engines. The flying machine can fly manned or unmanned.

    The spaceplane, 75 meters long and weighing about 180 tonnes, was planned to have rocket engines firing a liquefied hydrogen-oxygen mixture.

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