The Bristol Spaceplane has been named Ascender by David Ashford, CEO of Bristol Spaceplanes, Ltd. The original idea for the tourist-class spaceplane is to lift off under its own power, rocket up to 100 km, and land on the same runway it took off from. Passengers will enjoy several minutes of weightlessness from the time the rocket engines cut off until the spaceplane reenters the sensible atmosphere (see Fig. 12.1). This is the free-fall portion of the trajectory; it consists of a coast up to the apogee, followed by a plummet back into the atmosphere. Space tourists will gladly pay handsomely for this experience. This is essentially the same launch plan being developed
by about a dozen launch companies around the world. The initial target altitude is 100 km, because this is considered the international boundary of space. Anyone exceeding this altitude can call himself or herself an astronaut, and rightly so.
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