Report: Russian Companies Developing 16-Person Tourism Vehicle

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The Russian Interfax news agency reports that the Myasishchev Experimental Machine Building Plant will build a space tourism vehicle capable of carrying 14 passengers and two crew members on suborbital flights.

“‘The enterprise is working on documentation and a draft design and is completing the technical feasibility study for the system. A private Russian company is fully financing the project,’ the enterprise’s press service told Interfax-AVN,” the story states.

Myasishchev has a description of the program on its website. The company has not identified the financial backer of the project.

The 27-metric ton M-91 vehicle would be flown atop a Myasishchev VM-T Atlant aircraft to a high altitude. The space plane would then separate and use its on-board propulsion system to fly to an altitude of 100 kilometers, where passengers would enjoy a period of zero gravity.

The VM-T Atlant was a Soviet aircraft built in 1981. It ferried Energia rocket boosters from their production facilities to the Baikonaur Cosmodrome. It also carried the Soviet space shuttle Buran.

Wikipedia reports that only two aircraft were built; they were retired in 1989 and replaced by Antonov’s An-225 Mriya. “At least one Atlant remains at the Zhukovskiy airfield in Russia owned by TsAGI and Gromov Flight Research Institute. The other can be seen on Google Earth’s hi-res image of Dyagilevo Airbase, Ryazan oblast,” according to Wikipedia.

The M-91 would be larger than any other space tourism vehicle known to be under development. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will carry six tourists on suborbital flights.