Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Virgin Galactic's first non-US spaceport

Thanks to Boing Boing for pointing me to the Air & Space article concerning Richard Branson’s Virgin Galatic's to make the company’s first launch site outside the United States. And that site is in one of the most remote places possible, but not completely unknown to the tourist trade, Kiruna Sweden, 90 miles north of the arctic circle, barely rise above 15 degrees Fahrenheit for months on end. The town is also known as the location of the "Ice Hotel".

Virgin plans to launch sub-orbital flights as early as next year. From the article:
  • Kiruna could soon be hosting hundreds of space tourists. Suborbital spaceflights from Kiruna, Virgin Galactic spokespeople have promised, could send tourists straight through the Aurora Borealis.
Of course Kiruna has not gone without some level of interest from the Swedish military. Again from the article:
  • Because of its remote location and minimal air traffic, Kiruna has been home to an array of aerospace activities for almost half a century. The Swedish government established a space research center here in 1964. The center, called Esrange, today includes a 3,240-square-mile range for launching sounding rockets.
Though in truth, lots needs to be done before even a shovel of permafrost is moved. First and foremost, the US government needs to sign off on exporting the technologies that could possibly used for other purposes. And the Swedish government has got to sign off as well.

Read the complete article here

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