Cheap Space Flights Planned for Canary Islands

starsNatalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, December 16, 2013

Swiss Space Systems (S3), a European group of companies, is hoping to “democratise access to space" by launching flights from a base outside a beach resort on Gran Canaria.

Maspalomas is a popular tourist destination, best known for its golden sand dunes, bars and foam-party discos. But with first flights beginning in 2020, visitors may soon be able to indulge their inner-astronaut here too.

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The flights are being designed to be as cheap as possible, with the space shuttle detaching from an Airbus A300 aircraft six miles above Earth. Six people will then be flown 60 miles further before returning to Earth.

The craft would be reused for each journey, in the same way that an ordinary airline operates, and the shuttle will use standard fuels, meaning it will cost less.

The group has yet to decide what the price of a ticket will be, but said it selected Gran Canaria because of its tourist industry and its location in the Atlantic Ocean, away from populated areas.

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S3 is also launching Zero G - zero gravity - flights from the Canaries in 2014 but has its headquarters in Switzerland, where the shuttle will be assembled and inital tests run in 2017.

"After that, our goal is to propose manned flight after having modified our suborbital shuttle for passengers," said spokesman Grégoire Loretan. "The first flights will be done in 2020, and in the longer term we will propose suborbital flights for the general public.

"The goal is not tourism rather a high speed suborbital transport mode for everybody."