Russian space agency to build tourist space shuttle

Signs deal with undisclosed investor for craft, which is expected to be operational by 2011.

Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, has signed a deal with a private investor to build a spacecraft designed for tourist hire, which is expected to be launched for the first time in 2011.

The Soyuz spacecraft will be piloted by a professional astronaut, with a passenger capacity of two.

Roskosmos is refusing to release the identity of the investor, but in June signed a deal allowing the American company Space Adventures to book passengers for the spare seat on the shuttle which regularly travels to the International Space Station.

Space Adventures have already sent five tourists into space on board a Soyuz space craft, each of whom has paid up to AUD$26 million for the privilege.

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