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Russia to resume space tourism in 2018

Hamid Ansari talks on the phone with his wife, Anousheh Ansari, during her first moments onboard the International Space Station, on September 20, 2006 in Korolev Russia. Ansari and the Expedition 14 crew docked to the International Space Station September 20, 2006. A Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan September 18, 2006.

Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images

Russia officials say they will resume space tourism in 2018 after years of sending into space only professional cosmonauts and astronauts.

Russia had sent seven paying guests to the International Space Station since 2001 before curtailing the program in 2009. Sending a tourist has been all but impossible since 2011 when the United States shut down its Space Shuttle program and had to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets in order to get into orbit.

Russia, however, has made an exception for British soprano Sarah Brightman who is due to blast off on Sept. 1.

American enterprises aimed at space tourism were stymied last fall after a Virgin Galactic craft crashed during a test flight over the Mojave desert. The SpaceShipTwo crash, on Oct. 31, 2014, killed one pilot and left another injured. It also slowed Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson's plans of getting paying customers to the edges of space, for $250,000 a pop.

Virgin Galactic CEO said soon after the incident that the company could resume test flights this summer.

Russia's RKK Energia, a state-controlled rocket manufacturer, said in a quarterly report released on Tuesday that it plans to make up for an expected drop in demand for manned flights by resuming space tourism in 2018.