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Image: Rocketplane XP
Rocketplane Ltd.
The Rocketplane XP hybrid spaceship, shown in this artist's conception, would be powered by conventional jet engines in the pods at the back, and a rocket engine in the tail.
updated 2/7/2006 1:53:02 PM ET 2006-02-07T18:53:02

Rocketplane Limited Inc. has entered into an agreement with a Japanese research group to take experiment specimens into space.

Oklahoma City-based Rocketplane is working on a vehicle that it hopes to use eventually for commercial suborbital spaceflight.

Officials with Rocketplane and Hokkaido Aerospace Science and Technology Incubation Center have signed an agreement that allows Rocketplane to conduct research flights and launch satellites into space after test flights are successfully completed on Rocketplane's XP spaceplane.

The agreement, signed Monday, will allow the Japanese space research company to send specimens into space and see how they react to little or no gravity.

"This will allow them to see how different cellular and molecular specimens react in space," said Charles Lauer, vice president of business development for Rocketplane.

Rocketplane's spaceplane has a LearJet fuselage and will have four seats. It is to take off and land at Oklahoma's spaceport at the old site of the Clinton Sherman Air Force Base in Burns Flat.

The agreement also will allow the Japanese group to buy space for cargo to be launched into space in the future.

The Hokkaido Aerospace and Technology Incubation Center is developing recoverable satellites that mice will live in. The effects of space on the animals will be studied and help in producing medicine for future space travel.

A 1999 Senate bill created the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, which has received state and federal funding to develop space travel from the former Air Force base site.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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