Residents from Dubai are set to become space tourists as “a handful” of Virgin Galactic space tourism flight tickets have been purchased by Emiratis and expats.
Virgin Galactic, a third of which is owned by Abu Dhabi-based firm Mubadala, plans to send the first batch of space tourists to sub-orbit next year.
“We have just over 600 customers signed up for our flights and they represent 60 countries. One of the countries represented is the UAE, some of them are from Dubai.
This is a very engaged region and there’s a lot of interest in the space sector,” Aleanna Crane, head of communications at Virgin Galactic, told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow.
When asked about the demographics of the UAE customers, she said: “It’s a massively diverse group and they represent different countries.”
The 90-minute flight costs $250,000 per person and will give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness.
The firm has also launched spacesuits for its passengers, and they are on display at this year’s Dubai Airshow.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, even signed the spacesuit during his visit to the event on Sunday.
The suit includes a base layer for temperature regulation and comfort. On top of it is the spacesuit that has several personalisation features; a button to communicate with other astronauts on board and the pilot; space boots; mission patch; and a space for a country’s flag.
A spaceport has been built in New Mexico for the flight launches, though an agreement has been signed to build one at Al Ain Airport.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, has already had two successful test flights, one in December 2018 and another in February this year. It has recently launched its Astronaut Readiness Programme, as the company prepares to launch its first official flight in the first half of next year.