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Bulgaria Businessman to Be One of First Virgin Space Tourists

Date: 14.12.2009

Bulgarian businessman Shefket Chapadzhiev from Chicago has paid in advance to to be one of the first space tourists on Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two.

Sir Richard Branson unveiled the rocket plane he will use to take fare-paying passengers into space. In the Mohave Desert, New Mexico, the company Virgin Galactic presented SpaceShipTwo on Tuesday - the world's first commercial manned spacecraft.

Chapadzhiev, often referred to by the media as emigrant № 1 from Bulgaria, was among the invited guests at the ceremony. The price per flight is USD 200 000. The new space vehicle can carry up to 6 passengers and 2 astronauts. They will fly into space at 110 km altitude in the so-called suborbitalen flight.

Chapadzhiev told that he is not worried by the flight nor about his health. He has already passed the first test successfully. “When the start flight time approaches, we have will have repeated tests...The company believe that any healthy person can withstand the stresses”, added Chapadzhiev.

Built from lightweight carbon composite materials and powered by a hybrid rocket motor, SS2 is based on the X-Prize-winning SpaceShipOne concept - a rocket plane that is lifted initially by a carrier vehicle before blasting skywards.

SS1 became the world's first private spaceship with a series of high-altitude flights in 2004.

Its successor, however, is twice as large, measuring 18m in length. And whereas SpaceShipOne only had a single pilot (and the ballast equivalent of two passengers), SS2 will have a crew of two and room for six passengers.

The New Mexico authorities are investing almost USD 200 M in a purpose-built facility in Upham. It will have a USD 3 000 M runway and a suitably space-age terminal and hangar building designed by Foster and Partners.

Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic enterprise will have competitors but he is almost certain to be the first to market, barring any problems arising in the test campaign.

SpaceShipTwo's carrier plane is called WhiteKnightTwo. It was finished last year and has already begun its own trials.

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