HOUSTON — Excalibur Almaz, Inc., a Houston-headquartered space tourism company distinguished by its plans to use refurbished Soviet-era military space station hardware for adventure travel and commercial research, has become the seventh participant in the second round of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiative.

EAI joins the NASA-fostered effort to develop U.S. commercial spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station under an unfunded Space Act Agreement. The agreement will permit NASA participation in a series of systems requirements, launch vehicle, test plan, design compatibility, test and operational systems reviews through May 2012, according to NASA.

Earlier this year, the six-year-old company unveiled its unique hardware at its facilities on the Isle of Man, including a pair of Almaz military space stations and four three-person Reusable Re-entry Vehicles. The equipment was developed by the Soviets as military versions of the Salyut series of space stations. Seven Salyut and Almaz versions were launched between 1971 and 1982 (Aerospace DAILY, June 21).

The company plans an unmanned flight test of a refurbished and upgraded RRV as soon as 2014, with manned orbital flights of an RRV with an expendable habitable service module to follow soon after.

The launch of a commercial Almaz station would depend on the demand for orbital missions.

EAI brings flight-tested vintage RRV hardware to the CCDev competition, including a crew escape system and the capability to touch down on land as well as water. The company is assessing commercial launch vehicle options, according to NASA.

In April, NASA awarded a total of $270 million to Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX for further development of commercial crew space transportation services that could be operational in the 2015-16 time frame. United Launch Alliance and Alliant Techsystems are participating as unfunded participants.