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Tue 17 Apr 2012 10:56 AM

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Branson’s Virgin Galactic to build Spaceport Abu Dhabi

Senior executive appointed to project which will cut UAE to US flight time to less than an hour

Branson’s Virgin Galactic to build Spaceport Abu Dhabi
Virgin founder Richard Branson (pictured) will be the first passenger to be flown to space in the first commercial flight, along with the designer of the Virgin Galactic spacecraft SpaceShipTwo, Burt Rutan who is designing the spaceship.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic to build Spaceport Abu Dhabi
Virgin employees sit in the cabin of a prototype Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo. The ship will carry six passengers and two pilots, offering a total flight time of 2 hours.

Richard Branson’s Abu Dhabi-backed Virgin Galactic has appointed a senior executive to manage the establishment of a spaceport in the UAE capital, with the long-term aim of reducing the flight journey to the US to one hour.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides announced today Steve Landeene, a senior executive responsible for setting up Spaceport America in New Mexico, has been appointed to establish the company’s second base in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi state-backed investment firm Aabar Investments acquired a 32 percent stake in the company in 2009 and Whitesides said this was a further step in the partnership between the two companies.

“Under the 2009 deal the two companies agreed that Abu Dhabi would gain exclusive regional rights, subject to receipt of regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space flights," Whitesides said, speaking at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi.

“In his new role, Landeene will be responsible for developing the roadmap for the construction of a spaceport in Abu Dhabi, starting from financial, strategic and organisational business planning and, if the requisite regulatory approvals are approved, moving through to spaceport construction management,” he continued.

Whitesides added that a location for Spaceport Abu Dhabi had not yet been selected and potential sites would be evaluated once the regulatory requirements had been finalised.

From 2007 to 2010, Landeene worked as executive director of the Spaceport America project. The world’s first commercial spaceport, the US$209m facility in southwestern US is now in the final stages of construction of the first of three phases, which will be completed later this year.

“The appointment comes at an exciting time. Virgin Galactic has a beautiful home at Spaceport America in New Mexico. We look forward to the day when Virgin Galactic spaceships will be flying above this vibrant and forward looking city,” Whitesides said.

“Perhaps one day to see a future generation of our spaceships to fly from here to Abu Dhabi to New Mexico in no more than an hour… The first city pair in which the globe is once again brought closer together for the benefit of us all,” he added.

Earlier this year, Virgin Galactic received its 500th customer deposit, which at US$200,000 a ticket means it has potential future revenue of around US$100m.

“That business [sector] is just one piece of the overall commercial space market, worth billions of dollars overall,” Whitesides said.

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Syed Owais 7 years ago

How exciting! In my humble view, Abu Dhabi (UAE) will be the centre of attraction for everyone living this side of the world.

Visionary step and it has far reaching economic and cultural positive impact to UAE and in general to the whole Middle East region.

Great work by Abu Dhabi team.

Matt 7 years ago

One hour to American sounds great - but how much is it going to cost?

Concorde used to take just 3hrs 30mins to get to New York from London (rather than the usual 7-8 hours) but demand fell away.

With long-haul travel now having lots of in-flight entertainment, meals and (in business and upper) comfy seats to sleep in, are people really going to pay lots more to get there faster?

neighbour 7 years ago

The Hype aside- and the yearning to be noticed by all.....
This is a serious and welcome step forwrad if the short flight times would relate to less fuel expenses and reduced pollution.
But given the nature of any venture spurred by corporate sentiments- We may end up polluting both sides of the atmosphere

Traveller 7 years ago

Who is going to pay US$200,000 for going to america when tickets are available in less than US$2000.No sane man will do that..

Expat123 7 years ago

The article is misleading. Its not a standard flight to the US, you would travel through space and get the see Earth from outside the atmosphere. You arent really paying for the 1 hr travel time to the US, rather the chance to go into outer space and see the earth as few have. Apparently there are enough people willing to pay $200,000 to support their business model.

British Expat 7 years ago

Main purpose at this time is to experience the zero gravity flight as well as see earth from outer space. Idea is to make this flight affordable over a long period of time, similar to what Concorde did in 80s and 90s. As the compition developes, prices will come down.

Julian Siuksta 7 years ago

So 500 people paid a deposit? Obviously Virgin Galactic need to develop a larger spacecraft!

Piyush Jain 7 years ago

Richard is a smart man and he wisely choose the right investors. He obviously doesn't mind setting up a spaceport in Abu Dhabi in exchange of millions of dollars.