...With A "Simple" Rocket Design...

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Aera Corp., formerly American Astronautics, competed for the X Prize with plans for a ship that sounds much like Altairis, but the company never got enough capital together to make it happen. Company founder Bill Sprague told MSNBC that the success of SpaceShipOne has meant an infusion of venture capital that has encouraged him to move forward. The ship will use off-the-shelf technology, he said. Aera has not yet released details of its plans, but the X Prize spacecraft consisted of a capsule that would ride atop a booster rocket to about 119,000 feet, then separate and coast into space. The booster returns to the spaceport, and the capsule deploys a parafoil to slow its descent, then glides back to the spaceport for a landing cushioned by pressurized bags. "We employed 30 years of proven technology and improved upon it with modern capabilities to develop Altairis, our first-generation spacecraft," Sprague said in a news release. The company says that once its first spaceship is built, it can build more copies at the rate of one a month. The simplicity of the design makes the short time frame feasible, the company says.