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Thu 15 Feb 2007 03:44 PM

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UAE set to witness commercial "space race"

Britain's Virgin Galactic and America's Space Adventures could both fly to space from UAE.

The UAE could become home to one of Virgin Galactic's first commercial spaceports.

Richard Branson, the British founder of Virgin and its myriad of business units, is a frequent visitor to the UAE and is rumoured to be in discussions to make it a hub for commercial space travel.

Bahrain is also being considered, according to a report in Arabian Business magazine.

The first location for Virgin Galactic will be the Mojave Spaceport in the Californian desert, but this is expected to be used primarily for space tourism.

The UAE, which is almost exactly the opposite side of the world to California, could be the second base. Branson believes that in the future, commercial passengers will be rocketed half way around the world in just 30 minutes.

The rumour has surfaced in the same week that Ras Al Khaimah, the northernmost Emirate of the UAE, announced that it is setting up its own commercial spaceport in collaboration with Arlington Space Adventures, the company in the world to have sent tourists into space.

The total estimated cost of the plan, dubbed Global Spaceport Development Project, is $265 million, according to the Ras Al Khaimah government, which will co-fund the venture with Space Adventures.

His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, along with the UAE Department of Civil Aviation have granted clearance to operate sub-orbital space flights in their airspace.

RAK's Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, says that the UAE spaceport is just the beginning of his plans for space travel.

"After we initiate operations here, we look forward to expanding operations outside of the UAE. In this regard I would also like to announce that we have committed an additional $30 million of funding for Global Spaceport Development Project. We are most excited about spearheading this multi-billion dollar industry", he said.

The sub-orbital vehicle that will operate from the UAE spaceport is being developed by the Myasishchev Design Bureau, the leading Russian aerospace company that also led the design effort for the Russian Buran Space Shuttles that flew to orbit in the 1980's.

The sub-orbital vehicle Explorer will have the capacity to transport up to five people to space.

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Peter Rodriguez 12 years ago

There is interesting informations about the Buran Space Shuttle here: http://www.buran-energia.com

Jack Kennedy 12 years ago

I am pleased to see Vienna, Virginia-based Space Adventures involved with the Ras Al Khaimah Spaceport proposal and the Russian-made suborbital spacecraft. Point-to-point space travel is not as distant as many may now believe. I am for a Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaeport to the Ras Al Khaimah Spaceport in 30-to-45 minutes at Mach 24. http://www.spaceports.blogspot.com