Space Tourism Flights from Abu Dhabi Possible Within Three Years

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.

Read the full story.

VG Update: We Hope to Make Flights into Space by End of 2013

SpaceShipTwo in flight on Dec. 19, 2012. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo in flight on Dec. 19, 2012. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The National out of the UAE has the latest schedule prediction from Virgin Galactic, which features the usual if, then we hope qualifiers and promises of great benefits once the blessed day arrives when commercial operations actually begin:

“Depending on the progress of the last portion of the experimental test flight programme and the federal aviation authority licensing process we hope to be undertaking full space test flights by the end of 2013 and in commercial operations within a relatively short period thereafter,” says Sean Wilson, a Virgin Galactic spokeswoman.


Steve Landeene to Oversee Abu Dhabi Spaceport Development for Virgin Galactic

Steve Landeene

ABU DHABI (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic LLC (“Virgin Galactic”), part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Aabar Investments PJS (“Aabar”) today announced that they had appointed Steve Landeene to the role of Chief Advisor, Spaceport Abu Dhabi. Between 2007 and 2010, Landeene was Executive Director of Spaceport America in New Mexico and oversaw the development of Virgin Galactic’s operational hub and the world’s first purpose built commercial spaceport.

Under a deal announced in 2009 between Virgin Galactic and Aabar, the two companies agreed that Abu Dhabi would gain exclusive regional rights, subject to the receipt of regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space flights. Landeene’s appointment is an important step in bringing those plans to fruition, underscoring Abu Dhabi’s commitment to being an international destination of choice and a regional leader in tourism, advanced science, technology and higher education.


Surrey Chief Sees Middle East Space Growth, Lunarnet

Some interesting remarks from Surrey Satellite Technology Chairman Martin Sweeting, who is set to address delegates at the Global Space and Satellite Forum (GSSF) 2011 in Abu Dhabi in May:

“The Middle East region has already demonstrated a keen interest in space-based technologies and I am therefore delighted to be given the opportunity to address the delegates at this year’s GSSF. Small satellites are at the forefront of space innovation, and I believe that there are great opportunities for the region to benefit from the high-tech commercial opportunities in this growing space sector.”

While speaking to the ‘Engineer’ last November, Sir Martin made a prediction which are precisely what you would expect from a visionary. He looks forward to manned space exploration returning within the next ten years after the discovery of significant amounts of water on the Moon and, never one to miss a business opportunity, Sweeting plans to surround the Moon with small satellites to give astronauts internet and communication capabilities.


UAE Becomes Center of Middle East’s Space Effort

The seven-state United Arab Emirates is quickly becoming the center of the Middle East’s space effort, with agreements with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital spaceport and Bigelow Aerospace to develop an orbital spaceflight program. In the process, it is riding the crest of a new commercial wave in how human spaceflight will be conducted.

UAE might have the first commercial suborbital spaceport outside of the United States should the American government allows Virgin Galactic to export its WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo system.


Abu Dhabi More Excited About Space Hotel Than Most Aerospace Experts


A bit more about the growing role of Abu Dhabi in commercial space and Galactic Suite’s planned space hotel from Arabian Business:

The UAE already ranks second on the list of reservations from space fans around the world, beaten only by the US.

Space tourism is seen as a growing business sector in the UAE, with Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments buying a 32 percent stake in Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic for $280 million.


Forum to Highlight Abu Dhabi’s Growing Space Clout

HRH Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud flew as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.
HRH Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud flew as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.


Abu Dhabi, UAE, 11 November 2009: Abu Dhabi’s position as an emerging hub of the developing Arab space industry will be highlighted when a distinguished international line-up of experts and key decision makers gather in the UAE capital for next month’s Global Space Technology Forum.

The second edition of the event is being staged at a time when Abu Dhabi has moved to the forefront of increased regional space industry activity with major investment in an Earth Observation Space Centre, a Virgin Galactic Space Port and the Yahsat telecommunications satellite programme.