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Sun, Apr 29, 2007

UP Aerospace Successfully Launches SpaceLoft XL

Cremains Of James Doohan, Gordon Cooper Onboard

The second time was the charm for UP Aerospace, which confirmed to ANN Saturday the success of its SL-2 mission and the round-trip spaceflight of its SpaceLoft XL vehicle.

Among the items carried aloft on the two-stage rocket were the ashes of actor James Doohan -- "Scotty" on the television series "Star Trek" -- and Mercury 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper. The widows of both men fired the telephone pole-size rocket from New Mexico's Spaceport America.

"It was great, it was fun and we want to go again," said Wende Doohan to KRQE-13.

Following the dismal performance of the company's initial test firing last year, UP Aerospace redesigned the tail assembly of the SpaceLoft XL, adding a fourth tailfin for stability. That apparently did the trick... as this time around, the rocket attained the target altitude of 384,000 feet, or 72 miles above Earth.

The rocket also successfully split into two stages, with each stage returning to White Sands Missile Range under parachutes.

Capsules containing the remains of Cooper and Doohan -- as well as the cremains of 198 other individuals, whose families each paid $495 to ferry their dearly departed into suborbital space -- were retrieved, and mounted on plaques given to the families.

Also flown into space onboard the SL-2 Mission were dozens of student experiments -- from elementary schools to high schools to universities, from across America and worldwide, according to UP Aerospace.

Perhaps most importantly in the grand scheme of things, Saturday morning's launch was also the first successful commercial mission from Spaceport America, the world's first commercial spaceport. The facility -- which hopes to host flights for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space tourism business -- is now seeking approval from the FAA for full operation.

FMI: www.upaerospace.com, www.spaceportamerica.com

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