Next For SpaceDev -- Crew Shuttle To Space Station

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Taking the private space industry to the next phase beyond suborbital tourist flights, SpaceDev announced yesterday that it has a plan for a six-passenger vehicle that could provide routine, safe crew access to the International Space Station -- replacing the Space Shuttle -- for a fraction of the cost of traditional programs. SpaceDev said if funding is forthcoming, multiple manned suborbital test flights could launch by 2008, and manned test flights to orbit by 2010. SpaceDev, of Poway, Calif., built the hybrid rocket motor that powered SpaceShipOne. CEO Jim Benson said yesterday the ship could also be used for tourist flights. The orbital version of the SpaceDev Dream Chaser would launch vertically from a launch pad on the side of three large hybrid boosters. Unlike the Shuttle, it would not use cryogenic propellants, avoiding the dangers of foam insulation and ice. It would use scaled-up versions of the rocket used on SpaceShipOne. SpaceDev believes this combination should save time and money, and could result in a safe and affordable vehicle.