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Space Science

Europe Unveils New Space Plane for Tourist Market 139

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the another-toy-for-the-elite dept.
mrminator writes to tell us Space.com is reporting that Europe's largest space contractor, EADS, has just announced their plans to build a new space tourism vehicle. The new rocket, powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen will carry passengers on a 90 minute round trip flight for somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 euros ($267,000).
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Europe Unveils New Space Plane for Tourist Market

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  • Cheap Thrill (Score:4, Interesting)

    by biocute (936687) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:19PM (#19497651) Homepage
    $200,000 isn't that much to many people, so a target of 4,500 customers per year by 2020 seems reasonable.

    On top of that, by 2020, many more "poor" people might also be able (and willing) to save up $200K for a taste of pseudo-space.

    More importantly, no businessmen will allow one company to tap into this multibillion-dollar industry unchallenged, which means ticket price can only go down.
    • Re:Cheap Thrill (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:24PM (#19497715)
      Um, $200,000 is 10 years' salary for someone "poor" by U.S. standards, and 1000 years' salary for someone relatively "poor" by global standards. Sorry, but by any meaningful definition of the word, anyone who is willing to pay $200 grand for a 90-minute flight is extremely wealthy.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        Hmmmm.... Buget in about 170$ per month over 10 years and you can do it. Even on a "poor" salary. It's the whole power of budgetting your income. If you calculate your spendings correctly, you can set aside stuff in the long term without suffering. 170$ is less than a car payment (if you did a complete loan on your car). I won't say that the poor can, but this way it is in the range of the middle class of the western world. Learn about making a budget here. [slashdot.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by giorgiofr (887762)
          Erm, that only nets you 20K, not 200K. So, no, it's not doable by the middle class.
          • Oops....Missed a zero in my calculations. I blame the wine I'm having.... Yes, in that case, scrap the middle class.
      • I think he means "poor" compared to the multimillionares that this kind of thing is targetted at. The occasional dentist or doctor, that kind of thing.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Poor by U.S. standards is no doubt rich by global standards, but by European standards you are probably starving.
        In Europe, at least, $200,000 (or £100,000 if you prefer) is a living wage. By modern banks metrics (being prepared to lend you 3.5x your annual salary for a mortgage), £350,000 to spend on a property in London will buy you a 1 bedroom flat if you are lucky.

        Wherever you are, would you pay half what it costs to own a box room apartment, to fly to outer space?
        Of course it's all relativ
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by dawiz (451923)
          "In Europe, at least, $200,000 (or £100,000 if you prefer) is a living wage"

          uhm, no. I live in Switzerland - which is considered to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world, if not the wealthiest. The average income here is 65'000 Fr. (which is about 50'000$). A good income is anything above 85k, an excellent income starts at about 150k. 200k (CHF) is the kind of money doctors, dentists and lawyers make.
      • If inflation keeps going the way it has in the past few years, it will pennies a ride.
    • by L. VeGas (580015) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:29PM (#19497817) Homepage Journal

      $200,000 isn't that much to many people, so a target of 4,500 customers per year by 2020 seems reasonable.
      Quite right, young man. I spend more than that in a week on fresh orchids and chewing gum.

      Jeeves, fetch me my spats and pour me a brandy. I'm headed to the sky! Oh, and replace those twenty dollar bills in the lavatory with hundreds. The twenties are too scratchy.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by MilesNaismith (951682)
      I don't know where you live, but here in the USA, the rich get richer and the other classes get poorer. My real wealth is lower than my parents.
    • Re:Cheap Thrill (Score:5, Informative)

      by fbjon (692006) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @06:47PM (#19498691) Homepage Journal
      You mean 200.000€. It's 33% more.
    • People don't make more money over time. Money becomes worthless. $200,000 will be worth $10,000 in 2020, but anything which retains the same value will be $4,000,000. If anyone still values the $200,000 flight in 2020, it'll have the same value when dollars are 1/20th as valuable, and cost 20x more.
  • For that much money I would hope my 90 minute trip went further than around the neighbourhood.
    • by Wicko (977078)
      The summary made it seem too hopeful, considering its only a minute and a half in "space".
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717)
        I could tell right away that it was misleading. You can pretty much orbit the earth in 90 minutes. And it's not like they were just hovering; 90 minutes of hover is 9.8 m/s^2 * 60 * 90 = ~53,000 m/s delta-V, compared to the necessary ~7,800 m/s for LEO.

        This whole "suborbital tourism market" is so stupid. You've got a dozen teams competing to share a market of people who want to spend 200k+ on a couple minute joyride when they could get the zero-G from parabolas and see the curvature of the Earth from a M
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I could tell right away that it was misleading. You can pretty much orbit the earth in 90 minutes. And it's not like they were just hovering; 90 minutes of hover is 9.8 m/s^2 * 60 * 90 = ~53,000 m/s delta-V, compared to the necessary ~7,800 m/s for LEO.

          Of course, you can glide for 90 minutes using no fuel whatsoever. Once you spend a relatively small amount of deltaV to put yourself into a ballistic trajectory that takes you up 100 Km. 2 Km/s or so should be in the timezone of enough. Then glide for the

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by aegisalpha (58712)
      You're hoping for a happy ending? I believe that's 50 grand extra.
  • $Ka-ching (Score:4, Informative)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:24PM (#19497723) Homepage
    $267,000 is a lot of cash. Why right now you can get a seat on one of those 727s that can simulate zero Gs for a mere $3,675.00. Thats affordable for almost anyone who really wants to experience it. http://www.gozerog.com/ [gozerog.com]
    • by stratjakt (596332)
      You can go for a ride in a MIG much cheaper too, for my $$$ a fighter jet would be way more fun.

      But then, I like a good rollercoaster more than one of those drop tower things. (you know, pulls you up, drops you.. yay thrill)
    • Or you can do like I did in my mid twenties, rent a Cessna 152 (currently ~$100 per hour in the U.S.) and simulate zero Gs yourself until you make yourself puke :)

      Granted, earning the pilot's license will cost more than a single flight in the 727's, but you aren't limited to a single flight, either.
    • by Kopretinka (97408)
      Good point, just one thing should be noted: the 727s don't simulate zero G, they put you in free fall, which is zero G. Basically, orbiting in ISS, free fall on board of the space plane at 100km and free fall on board a 727 at 15km is the same thing, really, the only difference is how long it can be sustained and what the views are. Certainly the view from 100km (well-enough above the atmosphere) is something to pay premium for. Oh, and then there's the question of how exclusive it is, how many others have
  • 90 seconds? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Judinous (1093945) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:25PM (#19497741)
    Cost issues aside, I think that 90 seconds of weightlessness in a 90 minute flight is rather lame. Aside from the nice view, wouldn't it be better to just rent out a stripped-down 747 and go into repeated dives, like they do to train astronauts for zero-g?
  • For me, anything that gets people investing in space is a good thing.

    IMHO, and this does sound a bit corny, but there are two technologies that are the key to the survival for humans long-term... Energy and space, so people can get self-sustaining colonies on the moon, Mars, and outwards.
    • If only we had self sustaining nations here >_>
      • by feyhunde (700477)
        We're right now using a shit load of fuel that's been saved for a billion years. We don't have but one chance at this thing called society. Most plans I've seen for stability end up locking up standards of living and population. It also means using only renewable energies and doesn't have much new production possible

        However, you get us into space and everything changes. Power, minerals, living space, all for the taking once we get to LEO cheap enough. One small metal asteroid will give the world decades

    • by wikinerd (809585)
      I'm a space enthusiast and I actually do support the idea that people should go into space, but we must balance out our desire to expand with our environmental obligations. We should be better prepared to tackle environmental problems before we colonise space. On Earth the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, as well as the biosphere, help us keep our environmental footprint low. On other planets, especially those that are geologically inactive, there won't be any process to clean up our factory waste. If yo
  • Pipe Dream? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N3WBI3 (595976) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:27PM (#19497757) Homepage
    "Auque said the company has determined that designing and flight-qualifying its proposed space plane would require 1 billion euros in investment."

    At about 18 Million per flight they would have to fly 55 flights to break even on their investment. Add on the maintenance cost they will incur and this looks like it will end up being AirBus space a 'company' which constantly has to be subsidized by European governments.

    This also caught me "He said Astrium has surveyed other space-tourism projects, mainly in the United States, and found most of them lacking in engineering or business-model seriousness. "There are those who think you can design a rocket plane in a garage," Laine said. "Suffice it to say that that is not our niche."

    Hello SS1? how many projects from Europe were serious contenders for the X-Prize? I would be willing to be that Virgin / SS1 is up in the air before this pipe dream..

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      EADS is jumping the shark on this one over all I think it is a bad plan. Wouldn't it be better to get the A380 back on track and the A350 WXB off the ground before Boeing's 787 gets even more sales?
      How far is the A400M behind? I know that the UK is leasing C-17s from Boeing to tide them over and may just buy them instead of the A400M.
      I don't doubt that they could build this but seems like case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      "Auque said the company has determined that designing and flight-qualifying its proposed space plane would require 1 billion euros in investment."

      I wonder why it costs so much. Branson's just spending around $200 million on development of the SpaceShipTwo series.
    • Hello SS1? how many projects from Europe were serious contenders for the X-Prize?

      About the same as there were in the rest of the world - essentially none. And the reality is Scaled wasn't a serious contender either, until Paul Allen funded them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Toreo asesino (951231)
      And Boeing has never been subsidised by the US gov? Give me a break.
      • by N3WBI3 (595976)
        Not to the same degree, The us does not run national airlines like many EU nations do thus the US does not decided who the arilines will buy their planes from.
        • I trust you can back this claim up with some sort of evidence at least?

          As far as I know, no nation in Europe "decides" to go Airbus on anything other than normal business motivations. Every airline I've flown in the EU has had some Boeing stock of sorts, even if Airbus is by far the most popular.

          Personally, I suspect both Airbus & Boeing have had about equal "investment" from their own governing bodies. I can see what's wrong with it either side personally.
  • Round trip? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MMC Monster (602931) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:28PM (#19497775)
    That that just mean landing on Earth? How about they throw in a landing zone in Texas so that people can get an intercontinental flight out of it?
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:28PM (#19497789)
    What so special about htis one, other than being six or seven years behind the crowd and just as expensive?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FleaPlus (6935)
      What so special about htis one, other than being six or seven years behind the crowd and just as expensive?

      I think what's different about EADS is that they're the first already-established aerospace company to announce suborbital space tourism plans. Of course, this is also probably why they're announced development costs are so much higher than everybody else's.
      • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @07:13PM (#19498927) Homepage
        And why their odds of success are better than the abyssmal record of rocketry smaller companies whose gravesites litter international scene.
    • by LenE (29922)
      It give's 1/3 the time of weightless, compared to Virgin. You can wait a few more years to catch a ride. Oh, it's not an American design team. It's also a much more complicated vehicle than Virgin's, increasing the opportunity of "flight delays", making frequent fliers feel much more at home.

      On the serious side, if it works, this plane wouldn't need a mother ship to carry it to launch altitude. On the flip side, why cary a set of jet engines to space when they become dead weight once they flameout.

      The o
  • You can have one third of the zero-gravity time for two orders of magnitude cheaper: http://www.gozerog.com/ [gozerog.com]
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:34PM (#19497877)
    Or does this thing look too much like the Planet Express ship for comfort.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jonathan_S (25407)

      Or does this thing look too much like the Planet Express ship for comfort.

      Sure, just like the Planet Express ship. Aside from the shape (doesn't have the "chin" of the PE ship), the proportions, the giant wing, the canards, the two jet engines, the lack of ventral fins, the lack of the top turret, and the lack of the gratings near the rocket.

      Aside from those tiny insignificant details it is a dead ringer for the Planet Express ship.
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by jollyreaper (513215)

        Sure, just like the Planet Express ship. Aside from the shape (doesn't have the "chin" of the PE ship), the proportions, the giant wing, the canards, the two jet engines, the lack of ventral fins, the lack of the top turret, and the lack of the gratings near the rocket.

        Aside from those tiny insignificant details it is a dead ringer for the Planet Express ship.

        Hey, the Vista Microsoft promised and the Vista they released are a whole lot alike except for tiny little exceptions like that. Quit being so picky.

  • by perlhacker14 (1056902) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:35PM (#19497887)
    Right now, the focus should be on exploration and discovery, rather than interspace joy rides. Scientists and governments should begin focussing on manned missions to Mars and the like, rather than tourism. Will Space become another touristy area? With a price that most fairly well off bussiness people and the like may afford, that may well be the case. I, for one, think that our focus and money need be on exploration and discovery, rather than tourism.
    • Except this is private industry and not the government. (kinda) And whats your beef against tourism? Tourism could create a sustainable industry and infrastructure for the use of space that could not be created by the shuttle, nor the government for that matter.
    • It's really important that exploration and discovery be cost effective though. Right now, it isn't really.

      The point is economies of scale.

      A modern car is about as complex as any rocket; it has pumps, gas turbines, high temperatures, guidance system (GPS), servos, valves, computers, tanks, etc. etc.

      Sure there are many differences, but in many respects a car is actually more complicated, and a new modern car costs billions to design, which is similar to the R&D on rockets; it's really easy to underestimat
      • by gronofer (838299)
        The question is, do we want economies of scale in this business? I'd like to see some investigation of the environmental impact of such flights, given that they give only intangible benefits to small numbers of people. This would be the direct environmental impact of emissions from the vehicle and also the manufacturing impact for the vehicle and its fuel.
        • I've run the numbers before, and for a few thousand flights a year, even a few tens of thousands of flights the impacts are negligible. Even for an orbital flight the fuel use per person is high, but not stupidly so; about the same as flying around the world a couple of times. About the same amount of fuel used by one person in one year in their car.

          For a suborbital flight, divide by maybe 4.

          If you were talking a million flights per year, then maybe it would start to get more critical, but there's lots of t
  • While a minute and a half is pretty cool, and this development is a step in the right direction, can someone maybe point out to the organization behind this, and especially to their marketing droids that they need a name change.

    EADS -> (D)EADS

    Not the best association, much?
  • Methane in Space (Score:5, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:39PM (#19497947) Journal
    To answer the posted question of "what's so special", it's the methane motor. NASA tested one, but nobody's flown with one yet.

    All the major hydrocarbon fuels are within about 3% of each other in specific impulse. Methane, being readily available via natural gas, is very handy. However, it's a gas, compressed to liquid. That means its density is less than a liquid. The major liquid fuel (RP-1; pretty much JP-4/Jet A kerosene) is 22% more dense since it's a liquid. To make a methane engine worth putting into a human-rated craft will require a major step in pressure tank development. They'll need to cram a lot of gas in, and it'll have to fail safe (ie. not explode if it leaks). I suspect EADS made this part of their R&D for the project, or they'd have just gone with RP-1. For a comparison of fuels see http://yarchive.net/space/rocket/fuels/fuel_table. html [yarchive.net]

    • by Biff Stu (654099)
      You don't need high pressure confinement if the methane is cold. At -161.6 C the vapor pressure is 1 atmosphere and pressure confinement is not an issue until the spacecraft is at high altitude. Since the TFA already states that the spacecraft will use liquid oxygen, which boils at -182.96 C at 1 atm, we can assume that they are planning to use cryogenic fuel tanks.
      • by DynaSoar (714234)
        True, but you need cryogenic containment. It's difficult to do and requires much more expensive and heavy equipment. Pressure can be done cheaper than cold. It remains to be seen as to whether they've managed to develop the technology. If they have, they've lightened their power plant by at least 10%, maybe more, and that's how much more fuel they can carry.
  • by N3WBI3 (595976) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @05:44PM (#19497995) Homepage
    Virgin Galactic: "Work on the SpaceShipTwo design and construction is well advanced. Testing of the SpaceShipTwo prototype is likely to start in 2007 with commercial flights on the maiden Virgin Galactic craft, the VSS (Virgin SpaceShip) Enterprise, commencing early in 2009." Rutan usually delivers on his promises and that being the case.. Other hurdles Virgin Galactic has gotten over "NASA and Virgin Galactic announce a ground breaking and exciting agreement between the two parties to collaborate in future manned space technology. In particular, NASA confirms its willingness to make available to Virgin Galactic the unique capabilities and world class facilities within the NASA Ames Research Centre in California." 2-22-07
  • I do not get why would anyone be willing to pay so much for a "extended" airplane trip. Riding a rocket to space and to the orbit is one thing. It takes bravery and provides an opportunity to live in really an outside world. But just to fly a bit higher then normal planes yet far far slower then what's needed for entering an orbit...? I just do not get it. Must be for people who really do not know what to do with their money. Some people think that private companies like that will eventually be able to fly
  • Virgin is charging $200K a flight, these people are planning to charge a little more. Makes me want to ask a few market related questions:

    a) How many people can afford to spend over $200K for a 90 minute thrill ride?

    b) How many of those people would actually buy a ticket?

    Seems like these companies are chasing after a very small market.
    • thousands of Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborginis etc. worth 200K or even more are sold every year. So there certainly is a market for such flights. Instead of buying a sports car ot luxury yacht why not go to space... But they should try a little more than 1min 30secs and why not use them also as a super fast transport for large distances.
      • by tinrobot (314936)
        One catch.

        If you drive carefully, a $200K automobile is still worth approx $200K 90 minutes after you buy it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by crazyjimmy (927974)
      I'm not sure this is really a company chasing after anything. This kinds seems like a "oh yeah? we can do that!", and is being thrown together purely for prestige. The best part is this line:

      "Astrium President Francois Auque said one side benefit of the project is to shatter the cliche that established aerospace giants like EADS have lost their imagination and sense of daring."

      Their imagination is to copy someone else.

      Their daring... I guess that's trying to find investors for a $1,000,000,000 investm
    • by Brickwall (985910)
      Well, according to a 2004 study, there are over 7.5 million millionaires in the US alone. With the recovery of the stock market, I'm sure the number is higher now. I'm equally sure there are almost as many millionairess in Europe, and in China, the number is growing every day. So, I'd say with a market of 20 million or so, there will be some fools who will want to do this.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you're going into space on a 90 minute flight, why not actually GO somewhere, rather than returning to your point of origin?

    How about a flight from London to Sydney in 90 minutes? That way you can at least have a nice holiday as part of the experience.

    I've been waiting since the 80's for that aerospace plane that will get me from the USA to Australia in a matter of a couple of hours. What's up with that?
  • Pricing (Score:5, Funny)

    by mqduck (232646) <mqduck@mqduck.QUOTEnet minus punct> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @10:27PM (#19500449)

    The new rocket, powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen will carry passengers on a 90 minute round trip flight for somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 euros ($267,000).

    How much for one way?
    • by smoker2 (750216)

      The new rocket, powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen will carry passengers on a 90 minute round trip flight for somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 euros ($267,000).
      Based on 2 people sharing, (fuel tax, transfers and airport fees not included).
  • Karman Line (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kilo_foxtrot84 (1016017) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:26PM (#19500861)
    I think some people here are missing part of the draw of such a venture as this. People aren't interested in spending the money just for a minute and a half of weightlessness... they're interested in considering themselves astronauts. Once you break the 100km altitude mark--the Karman Line [wikipedia.org]--you're in outer space. If you're in outer space, you're technically an astronaut. People want the title, as it is still somewhat exotic and mysterious.

    If you think about it, space exploration is turning out to be just like the development of powered flight. It starts with a handful of daring, adventurous explorers, followed by governmental applications and novelties (like barnstorming and such), leading to common use by a large portion of society. Right now, we're moving through that second phase.
  • ...do I bother recycling and trying to reduce my carbon footprint?

    Nothing I ever do to change the way I live will have the least little effect so long as assholes are taking vacations in space.
    • by 808140 (808140)
      Are you serious? The number of people in the world who can afford such a flight number in the hundreds, maybe. If prices were to fall to such a point where the average SUV-driving joe could afford it, then you might have a point. As is, you're completely disregarding scale: even if taking a flight up to space were 100 times more polluting than a conventional airplane flight, heck, even if it were 1000 times more polluting, the actual carbon footprint left by these flights would be miniscule compared to t
  • What a load of trash (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @03:37AM (#19502189) Journal
    Throughout another article, they look down their noses at the efforts being undertaken referring to the engineering behind it all. [spacedaily.com] We have ruled out the idea of a simple rocket, which can not be used again, or of a small vessel attached to a large plane, the idea chosen by Virgin Galactic of Richard Branson, but which seems to us less safe IOW, they knock spacex, t-space, and scaled composites. This is the SAME group that is taking forever to do the A-380, which is poorly engineered and in trouble due to nationalistic politics. In addition, they had to obtain more funding from EU to do another aircraft to compete against the 787. But they promised that the 380 would be the last.

    Now, they say that Burt Rutan has horrible engineering. Burt's multitudes of aircrafts have set a number of records. Even later in that article, they speak of using hamocks which is straight out of one of the poor American companies (t-space). Spacex is looking at having rockets launch at a fraction of the price of the ariane V with slightly more payload due to "poor" engineering (and that is without the rocket re-use that they will employ). And all of that is without any gov. subsidy.

    As to the design behind Scaled's work, it has been the EXACT same idea that NASA wanted in the 70's (but nixon killed). In addition, so did EU, at first, before settling on Ariane's design. The idea being to not carry the jets and their covers to space. By taking the approach that they suggest, they will either have to take 3 tanks to space or use a dropped fuel tank. IOW, they have not learned the lessons that the American Shuttle vs. The Russian Shuttle (a theft, but better designed by moving the engines off the shuttle). Scaled did. They will be able to get to space MUCH sooner than EADS just due to this one item. Scaled's WK II will be used to carry not just the sub-orbital rocket (SS1.5), but will also carry SS2. It will be far easier to convert the SS1.5 to SS2. And they will not have to worry about WK.
    • The A350 has yet to receive any launch investment from any EU government, and the A380s investment was done under an agreement signed by both the EU and the US in 1992.
  • is the response about why the EADS approach will be one of the more expensive, poorly designed and engineered. [livescience.com]
    "Like other spaceship concepts that takeoff from a runway (XCOR and Rocketplane) or those that do rocket-powered vertical launches, the EADS vehicle will weigh more than twice as much (per passenger) as SpaceShipTwo and require more than twice the rocket impulse," Rutan told me. "This relates to significant increases in operational costs," he added, also noting that failure modes on ascent tend to
  • If I had the ability to blow $267,000, I think I would get more satisfaction from contributing to space research than I would from a simple 90-minute joyride. If a few of these rich folk pooled their money together they could make some cool deep space probe concept into reality, rather than just burning rocket fuel and having nothing to show for it.
  • Are they going to build the Clipper before or after the space plane?

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