The Isle of Man's expanding space industry is innovative by nature and the latest to emerge is startling by any standard. Isle of Man company Excalibur Almaz has acquired several re-usable space vehicles and plans to use them to take tourists into space.

Isle Of Man Flag

The RRVs will sport the Isle of Man flag on their sides along with those of other countries involved in the project.

One of the spacecraft has already gone on display in the grounds of King William's College. Two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut were on hand to answer questions from the press and public. Tim Craine, Director of Space Commerce, said: 'Two of the RRVs have actually flown in space but the space stations have yet to be launched. The RRV being brought to the Island is one of the capsules that has been into earth orbit twice already.'

The venture is a serious one and Excalibur Almaz boasts an extensive pool of experience amongst its company executives and advisers, including Space Shuttle astronaut Franklin R Chang-Diaz, former Johnson Space Centre Director George W S Abbey and veteran Russian cosmonaut Colonel Vladimir Titov – the first man to spend a whole year in space.

The spacecraft – known as re-usable re-entry vehicles (RRVs) - were part of a top secret Soviet programme in the 1970s and were designed to fly cosmonauts to the former Soviet Union's secret Almaz space stations. The new Isle of Man based company has purchased two of these stations as well. Apart from NASA's Space Shuttles the RRVs are the only re-usable spacecraft in the world.

Space Registry Planned

The steady increase of space related industry to the Island has prompted the Government to formulate plans for an Isle of Man Spacecraft Registry. Tim Craine, Director of Space Commerce, said: The Government is hoping to introduce legislation that will allow for the setting up of a space registry that will have similar benefits to companies as the existing ship and aircraft registries. Companies on the space register would benefit from lower tax rates and encourage new space related business to establish in the Island.'

Initially the new registry would focus on attracting satellites for registration. A large proportion of this work is currently carried out by the International Telecommunications Union based in Geneva. If approved, the Isle of Man registry would operate under licence from the British National Space Centre.

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