Virgin Galactic will build a spaceport in Abu Dhabi that plans to eventually reduce flight times from the Emirati capital to the United States to only one hour, Arabian Business reported on Tuesday.
A senior executive has been appointed to set up a port in the UAE capital which will become a second base to Spaceport America’s already-existing base in New Mexico.
“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,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, according to the business news website.
In 2009, Abu Dhabi state-backed investment firm Aabar Investments had acquired a 32 percent stake in Spaceport America.
“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.
Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, expects to test fly its first spacecraft beyond the Earth’s atmosphere this year, with commercial suborbital passenger service to follow in 2013 or 2014, company officials said in February.
Virgin Galactic received its 500th customer deposit for suborbital flights, which cost $200,000 per person.
(Written by Eman El-Shenawi)