Commercial Space Biz Update

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It's been a year and a half since Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne took civilian astronauts into space -- and since then, nobody else has tried it. But a group of entrepreneurs who met last week in Phoenix, Ariz., hope to change that soon. At the Space Access '06 conference, company execs reported on their efforts. Besides trying to serve a space tourism market, several are competing for a half-billion-dollar NASA contract to provide commercial services to the International Space Station. According to a report in The Space Review, Space Systems/Loral says it can provide low-cost cargo transport. PanAero proposes a two-stage "space van" that could also carry tourists or satellites into orbit, at $1.3 million per launch. Three of the companies at the event pledged to save a seat in their vehicles to give to a teacher. Armadillo Aerospace, of Texas, Rocketplane Ltd., of Oklahoma, and California-based XCOR Aerospace each pledged to take a teacher into suborbital space, MSNBC reported. The Teachers in Space project aims to secure funding to provide suborbital space access for up to 200 teachers per year.