Spaceport - Virgin Galactic

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If space was once dubbed 'The Final Frontier' then increasingly that particular moniker must be re-assessed. While the idea of a man on the moon was once completely speculative, and then infamously achieved, the coming years will see everyday people as likely to take a trip into space as Spain. Outer space is becoming a frontier that we can all explore.

Space tourism is emerging and is expected to become a new niche business for the travel industry in the imminent future. Virgin Galactic is currently completing tests in order to be able to launch its first commercial space flight by the end of the year. The US company belonging to the Virgin group is planning to provide orbital human spaceflight in the immediate future. In order to prepare itself for this coming tourist niche, the UK government is already planning to build a spaceport in the country by 2018 (The Wall Street Journal).

ATTRACTING SPACE INDUSTRY

The British government aims to attract companies such as Virgin Galactic, which intend to fly outside the atmosphere to provide passengers with a zero-gravity experience. The future spaceport will also be able to host launches of small satellites and various scientific payloads. For now, eight locations are under consideration for the construction of the British spaceport, with six of these being located in Scotland (it remains to be seen whether the forthcoming Scottish independent referendum vote will have any influence over this in the long-term).

The main criteria favoured by the British government are long runways surrounded by rural areas and favourable climate. The development of commercial flight to space is expected to open new markets, develop the space industry in the UK, and add economic value to the country. The spaceport is expected to deliver a multitude of new job opportunities, as well as gaining further prestige for Britain, with the image of the country having previously been enhanced by the London Olympics in the summer of 2012.

A NEW NICHE: THE SPACE TRAVELLERS

Space tourism is a niche business aimed specifically at high-end travellers. It would be fair to say that at this point in time there will be no space travel equivalent of budget airlines. Zero-gravity flights already exist, though: a commonly available aircraft flies parabolic arcs, which create 30 seconds of zero-gravity. A flight with fifteen parabolic arcs lasts around one hour and a half and costs around $5000 per person.

But flights of this nature are but a mere simulation of the sensations that one experiences in space. With the launching of Virgin Atlantic’s LauncherOne, travellers will be able to fly 50,000 feet above sea level, outside earth's regular atmosphere. This is not an undertaking that can be compared to a charter flight to the Algarve; a 3-4 days training session is required before embarking. And the flight from New Mexico spaceport will cost around $120,000 per person.

That’s why, to provide luxury accommodation and catering to its customers, Virgin Galactic has recently entered into a partnership with the luxury Hotel Encanto, and a restaurant, the World Class Gourmet, in Las Cruces, located some sixty miles away from the spaceport. On the back of these developments, employment in Las Cruces is expected to grow significantly, according to the Tech Times.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY

Space travelling is no longer confined to science-fiction; it is becoming a real-world reality. Virgin Galactic has even been granted an ICAO (international civil aviation organisation) tag “VGX”, which its commercial airliners are using. On the basis of this, the company is officially allowed to sell tickets through travel agencies using the Amadeus system. As of yet, Virgin Galactic has yet to secure an IATA (international air transport association) code, which means that the company has yet to secure a European location. However, the acquisition of this is thought to be a formality in the coming years.

European space holidays are not limited to the UK either. Both Sweden and Switzerland are investing in the development of commercial space travel too. Even if prices are currently extremely high, meaning only the well-heeled will be able to contemplate such a journey at present, the trend of space travel will unquestionably be hot in the coming years. In common with all products, the price of space travel will decline pretty rapidly as the technology associated with it becomes more commonplace and affordable.

Though some people may find the prospect of being jetted into outer space a daunting prospect, to many it will be a simply irresistible opportunity. The development of space travel will stimulate the tourism industry, open new opportunities and be the experience of a lifetime for people all over the world.

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