UK-based Starchaser Ltd. announced Friday that it has won a study contract from ESA. The award, worth €150,000 (US$194,000), will be used to perform a detailed technical assessment of Starchaser’s Thunderstar/Starchaser 5A suborbital vehicle. Starchaser hopes to have the vehicle ready to begin commercial operations from Spaceport America in New Mexico “as early as” 2009, although that might be overly optimistic, given the level of development and funding the company has disclosed to date.
The award was part of ESA’s Survey of European Privately-funded Vehicles for Commercial Human Spaceflight, announced in July 2006. At that time ESA said it planned to award up to three such contracts, although there’s been no announcement regarding whether any other European firms also won contracts.