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October 1, 2010 7:18 am
Energiya, the Russian rocket and space group, will build the world’s first commercial space station in a partnership with Orbital Technologies, the US high technology company.
Capable of housing up to seven people, the CSS will serve as a hotel for space tourists and a possible emergency refuge for astronauts in distress. It will also help Energiya attract private investment as Russia strives to maintain a leading role in space.
The CSS would “be a true gateway to the rest of the solar system,” Energiya said in a statement. “A short stop over at our station will be the perfect beginning to a manned circumlunar flight.”
Sergey Kostenko, the chief executive of Orbital Technologies, said the CSS would “provide a unique destination for commercial, state and private spaceflight missions,” creating a “valuable addition to the global base of orbital assets.”
Russia launched space tourism in 2001, charging up to $35m to ferry super-rich travellers to the International Space Station, a research station run by five countries, including the US.
In recent years the industry has taken off with several start-up companies developing spacecraft for the growing number of tourists seeking adventures in the cosmos.
Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of the Virgin Group controlled by Richard Branson, the British billionaire, is building a space ship with California-based Mojave Aerospace that will eventually offer $200,000 trips into space.
Early this year Russia said it would temporarily halt trips for space tourists citing a shortage of capacity on its Soyuz rockets used to ferry astronauts to the ISS.
During the Soviet era, Russia competed against the US in space technology, sending the astronaut Yuri Gagarin on the world’s first manned expedition to space.
But it fell behind in the space race after the US landed the Apollo space craft on the moon in 1969.
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