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Spaceport America
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When would be the best time to unveil the name of the most talked about space tourism venture in exploration history?
The organisers decided that the £124m space hub should be officially renamed Spaceport America in time for the largest gathering of international aviation enthusiasts at Britain's Farnborough Air Show.

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New Mexico Spaceport
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A launch date has been set for the inaugural flight from the New Mexico Spaceport, a site officials hope will become a new hub for space tourism and other commercial launches.

UP Aerospace, Inc. today set August 14, 2006, as the official date for its SpaceLoft XL rocket, which will carry dozens of private and educational experiments and payloads.

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Esrange Space Tourists
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Space tourists could soon be heading into orbit from Swedish soil in a venture planned by UK entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

UK company Virgin Galactic, headed by Branson, wants to make the Esrange launch pad in Kiruna one of its bases for commercial space flights, starting in 2008.

They are very interested in the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights during the flights” - Olle Norberg, general manager of Esrange.

Space passengers will fly on specially-built planes that will take off from a normal runway at Kiruna Airport.
On reaching an altitude of 15 kilometres, a rocket booster will propel the six passengers into space. The plane will later land like a glider.
Esrange’s role will be to service the craft and charge the rocket motor after every flight.

The space centre will complement a similar Virgin facility in New Mexico in the US.

Commercial flights are scheduled to start in 2008, with trips to the Northern Lights beginning in 2011. Seats on a ride will cost US$200,000.
LFV, the Swedish Space Corporation and the Ice Hotel in nearby Jukkasjärvi are now putting together a consortium, Kiruna Spaceport, to promote space tourism.

Source: New Voyage News

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RE: Virgin Galactic
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Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is planning to offer the most thrilling ride in history – straight through the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis.

Virgin’s European space centre space will be built at Kiruna in the far north of Sweden – a place so close to the North Pole that it is near to the Northern Lights.
The space centre, Virgin’s first in Europe, will begin commercial flights in 2008 with trips through the Aurora Borealis beginning in 2011.
The ship making the flights, SpaceShipTwo, will seat six passengers, a pilot and a co-pilot. Seats on the ride will cost £112,000 (162,000 euros).

The Aurora Borealis is typically 80-150 kilometres above the Earth and SpaceShipTwo can fly to 140 kilometres. Flying right through the Northern Lights, which are seen from the ground as vast swathes of blue and mauve light, will be a world first.

As no one has ever flown through the Aurora Borealis, no one knows what the effect of flying though such a large magnetic field will be on SpaceShipTwo or on the people inside. We are starting to conduct research on exactly what the effects will be” - Will Whitehorn, the president of Virgin Galactic, the Virgin group’s space travel arm.

Virgin’s European space centre will be on the site of an historic European space facility, the European Space Range (ESRANGE), built by the Swedish government which has an existing runway Virgin believes will be big enough for its purposes.

According to Whitehorn, the location is also ideal because it has free airspace above it, a necessary prerequisite for space flight. The other site considered for Virgin Galactic’s European space centre was a site in northern Scotland.
Virgin’s main space facility is also being developed on a remote site away from commercial flight paths. It is the other side of the world in the southern part of New Mexico. The cost of the American spaceport is $200m and it is sited on 27 square miles of government-owned land.

Aurora Borealis is made up of luminous arches or streams of light that appear in the northern regions of the earth. Aurora was also the name given to the Roman goddess of dawn. The aurora is formed when charged particles (electrons and protons) are guided by the Earth’s magnetic field into the atmosphere near the poles. When these particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere, some of the energy is transformed into light.

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The British company, Virgin Galactic, created by entrepreneur Richard Branson to send tourists into space announced an agreement on Tuesday for the New Mexico state to build a $200 million spaceport.

Virgin Galactic also revealed that up to 38,000 people from 126 countries have paid a deposit for a seat on one of its manned commercial flights, including a core group of 100 "founders" who have paid the initial $200,000 cost of a flight upfront. Virgin Galactic is planning to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009.
New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans said construction of the 27-square-mile area spaceport, to be built largely underground in the south of the state near the White Sands Missile Range, could begin in early 2007, depending on approval from environmental and aviation authorities.
Virgin will have a 20-year lease on the facility, with annual payments of $1 million for the first five years and rising to cover the cost of the project by the end of the lease.

"Experts predict that thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment will be created in the next 20 years as the private sector develops new commercial markets in the space industry in New Mexico. Virgin is the beginning and many other space companies will follow" - Rick Homans.

Virgin Galactic had chosen New Mexico as the site for its headquarters because of its steady climate, free airspace, low population density and high altitude. All those factors can significantly reduce the cost of the space flight program.

"We look forward to working together to make the 'Final Frontier' a reality for tens of thousands of pioneering space tourists. Our activities will prove the commercial viability and excellent safety technology behind private personal spaceflight and give birth to a new industry in New Mexico" - Will Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic President

The spaceport, to be located some 25 miles south of the town of Truth or Consequences, will be constructed 90 percent underground, with just the runway and supporting structures above ground.
Stephen Attenborough, the Virgin Galactic executive in charge of marketing the space flights, said the 100 founder members were committed to "stepping up to the plate" and boarding a flight early in the operations.

"Many of the others will need to wait until the price comes down and will want to wait for proven reliability and safety" - Stephen Attenborough.

Trevor Beattie, a London-based advertising director who paid for his ticket within days of Branson's announcement of the company's launch, said he was not concerned about safety.

"My only concern is that the longer they leave the launch, the more likely we all are to be hit by a bus" - Trevor Beattie.

Branson formed Virgin Galactic after watching SpaceShipOne, a craft designed by Burt Rutan and funded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, become the first privately manned rocket to reach space last year. SpaceShipOne went on to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize with two suborbital flights in five days from Mojave, California.
Virgin Galactic has a deal with Rutan to build five spacecraft, licensing technology from Allen's company, Mojave Aerospace Ventures.
Virgin Galactic plans to operate its initial flights from the Mojave base ahead of the projected opening of the New Mexico spaceport in late 2009 or early 2010.
Virgin Galactic also unveiled its logo — the pupil of an eye incorporating an eclipse. Branson's iris will be used for the final design.
Branson is due to join New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in the United States on Wednesday to unveil the spaceport plans.

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