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Space exploration is going through some changes at the moment, what with Nasa putting the Shuttle on ice and the future of the ISS looking a bit rocky on account of the fact that everyone is falling out with the Russians

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By  Mark Sutton Published  August 21, 2008

Space exploration is going through some changes at the moment, what with Nasa putting the Shuttle on ice and the future of the ISS looking a bit rocky on account of the fact that everyone is falling out with the Russians. But while government-funded space travel falters, private projects seem to be taking off. Now to give Richard Branson's high altitude boomerang some competition in the space joyride market comes this - Star System Inc's Hermes Shuttle.

The Hermes is mostly the work of aerospace engineer Morris Jarvis, an enthusiast who started building the craft in his garage in 1993. Now the Hermes is almost ready for its first test flight, with IDF marking the first time its been out of the metaphorical garage.

What's it doing at IDF? As you might suspect, its got Intel inside - in the form of Intel embedded EP80579 integrated processor system on a chip, and Intel Atom Z5xx series, which will handle data gathering, testing and communications systems on the Hermes.

Star Systems Inc is looking for another $1.5 million in funding to complete tests and start space flights, which surely has got to be a better deal than buying a boring jumbo jet. Hermes is slated for its first test flight in the Autumn, when it will be flown on remote from a virtual cockpit on the ground.

And in case you are thinking that it looks a bit small to be able to reach space under its own power - you'd be right, but the Hermes has a clever - and carbon friendly solution - it will be suspended from an ultra-high altitude helium balloon and towed up to 113,000 feet before being released to power back to Earth with an add-on engine pod.

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