Space Tourism Flights from Abu Dhabi Possible Within Three Years

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SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic’s Steve Landeene is over at the Global Space and Satellite Forum in Abu Dhabi this week, where he talked about the company’s plans for a spaceport there. The highlights:

  • Space tourists could begin flying into space from Abu Dhabi beginning in the 2015-2016 time frame.
  • A decision is still pending on whether to fly from an existing airport or to build a spaceport from scratch.
  • “The most likely way forward is phased approach, starting with an existing infrastructure and then migration as you become more established.”
  • No regulatory framework yet exists in the United Arab Emirates to support spaceflight.
  • ITAR and MTCR are hurdles to exporting SpaceShipTwo, WhiteKnightTwo and LauncherOne overseas.
  • There is a possibility that SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo could be manufactured in the UAE.
  • Virgin Galactic is working with Khalifa University on developing an educational program that would fly experiments into space.

Aabar Investments, a company owned by the Abu Dhabi government, has put up most of the money for the development of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. Aabar has invested $490 million in Virgin Galactic and owns 37.8 percent of the company. The investment includes $390 million for an equity share in Virgin Galactic and $100 million to fund LauncherOne.

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