Scientists have unveiled a spaceship that can take off and land at ANY normal airport.
Passengers will be able to board the Space Jet at Gatwick or Stansted — just like a holiday jet.
The ship — a rival to Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two — will look like a business jet and carry four passengers 60 miles high to the edge of space.
It takes off using a standard jet engine, then at 7½ miles high, it ignites its rocket engines.
Portholes will give stunning views of the Earth as passengers wearing safety helmets float free from their seats.
A trip will cost up to £135,000 for a 1½-hour flight with three minutes of weightlessness.
The Space Jet is the brainchild of European satellite builders Astrium, which has centres in Hertfordshire and Hampshire.
A mock-up of the privately-funded jet was shown in Paris last night.
EADS Astrium said it hoped the space jet — which looks much like a conventional aircraft although it is outfitted with rocket engines — will be operational by next year, with the first flight scheduled for 2012.
Astrium head Francois Auque told reporters the company expects to secure several hundred million dollars in funding for the project by the end of the year. Most of the money is to come from private investors, although governments, like that of the southern German state of Bavaria where the engines are to be produced, may also take part, the company said.
“We are counting on some 20,000 space tourists by the year 2020,” Auque said. “We want to served a third of them. We have faith in this market.”