Talks ongoing with Virgin Galactic on UAE spaceport plans

Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, Dr Ahmad Al Falasi confirms talks have taken place with Virgin Galactic
Talks ongoing with Virgin Galactic on UAE spaceport plans
Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, Dr Ahmad Al Falasi
By Gavin Gibbon
Thu 18 Jul 2019 02:09 PM

Plans to establish a spaceport in the UAE will hinge on a number of key criteria being met, according to the chairman of the UAE Space Agency, Dr Ahmad Al Falasi.

Speaking on the sidelines of the agency’s fifth anniversary celebrations in Abu Dhabi, Al Falasi told Arabian Business that discussions for a spaceport were ongoing.

However, he said: “Our discussions right now are of opening a spaceport potentially in the region in the UAE but it’s still in the early stages.

“The first thing we need to do, as an investor, is to make sure that investment works, that it is a viable project, and then, if there is demand, we would be more than happy to host a spaceport in the UAE.”

Al Ain plan

Earlier this year, the UAE Space Agency and Virgin Galactic signed an agreement to open up the possibility of space tourism flights from Al Ain Airport.

Under the deal, the parties agreed to plan for a SpaceShipTwo and carrier aircraft vehicle pair that would be operated from the UAE, collaborate to develop a “centre of excellence” for microgravity research in the UAE and develop spaceship operational plans for Al Ain Airport.

The space vehicle would be used by customers in the UAE and the region as a science platform for high-frequency space research, as well as private individuals to experience space.

Space tourism

Virgin Galactic, which is owned by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson - Abu Dhabi state-backed investment firm Aabar Investments has a 37.8 percent percent stake in the company - and the UAE Space Agency have been in talks for several years about using the UAE as a launch hub for space tourism flights. 

The UAE is set to introduce a new Space Law, which will pave the way for space tourism companies to invest and operate in the country.

It comes as Branson ramps up his efforts to be the first business to provide commercial passenger flights in space.

Earlier this month, Virgin Galactic announced its plans to become the first publicly-traded space tourism company.

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