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California company shoots for cheap ride to space

EZ Rocket on an earlier test flight
EZ Rocket on an earlier test flight  

MOJAVE, California (CNN) -- A group of aerospace engineers and technicians conducted another test flight Thursday of a rocket prototype that could lead to relatively easy and inexpensive flights into space.

The test vehicle, dubbed EZ-Rocket, is a modifed build-it-yourself hobby plane. The twin 400-pound thrust engine rocket cost $500,000 to make and took less than one year to build.

It burns isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and liquid oxygen, consuming about $900 worth of fuel during each short flight.

XCOR Aerospace, maker of the plane and the rocket, sees the test vehicle as the first step toward providing cheap, easy access to orbit for civilians.

The EZ-Rocket itself will not reach space, but the Mojave, California-based company is using the launches to help raise $10 million to build its next-generation vehicle, a supersonic vehicle designed to reach the edge of space.

Flight legend Dick Rutan, the first person to fly non-stop around the world without refueling, is XCOR Aerospace's test pilot.

Rutan took the plane up for a flight that lasted until the fuel ran out. He then glided the vehicle back to the desert floor. He has flown all the aircraft's test flights since its initial launch in July 2001.




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