Cargo rocket heralds new era in space

A rocket packed with cargo is set to blast off into space from a desert launch range in New Mexico, an event backers say will usher in a new era of cheap public access to space.

    The rocket's designer promise a new era in space

    UP Aerospace plans to launch the SpaceLoft XL rocket from Spaceport America, a remote desert launch site near the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, early on Monday.

    The telephone pole-sized rocket will carry around 50 items of payload - including a bag of Cheerios, some cremated remains and several high school science projects - on a brief suborbital flight 70 miles (110 km) above Earth.

    The rocket is not the first privately funded bid to reach for the stars, UP Aerospace says the brief 13-minute flight will inaugurate a new era that puts space within reach of large numbers of paying customers.

    Two years ago, SpaceShipOne brushed the edge of space with a man on board, scooping up a $10 million prize for its backers.

    Eric Knight, the UP Aerospace chief executive, said clients could buy payload space starting at a few hundred dollars for items weighing a few grams, rising to "many tens of thousands of dollars" for larger pieces of cargo.

    "This is the first time that a company has allowed direct access to space for the public," Knight said.

    "It's low cost, it can be regularly scheduled, [and] it's the way it's going to be done by the commercial sector in the future."

    The rocket, which is plastered with sponsors' logos, underwent a series of final pre-flight checks by engineers on Sunday.

    The firm has nine commercial flights booked over the next 12 months.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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