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Riding a Rocketplane For Fun and Profit

The first thing that comes to many people’s mind in thinking about rocket planes is the potential for rapid personal travel. While that possibility exists, other applications promise a steadier revenue stream and will probably develop first.

satellite launch: Despite a healthy business from launching government and commercial satellites, the international space launch industry has for the past two to three decades suffered a period of almost complete technological stagnation. Most of the launch systems now in use-including the Delta, Atlas, Titan, Soyuz, Molniya, and Proton-were already flying in more or less their current forms in the mid-1960s. While a few additional systems, such as the European Ariane, have been introduced in the intervening decades, technological improvements have been so minor that older systems are still competitive. As a result, freight rates from the earth’s surface to orbit remain at about $10,000 to $20,000 per kilogram-the same as in the 1960s. This persistently high cost severely inhibits the commercial development of space.

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