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Dr Mordrid
13th August 2006, 20:32

Space Travel Will Take Off In Five Years

Agence France-Presse

London (AFP) Aug 9, 2006

Commercial flights to space could be taking off from Britain within five years, the head of the space travel firm Virgin Galactic said Wednesday. Will Whitehorn said the Lossiemouth Royal Air Force base in Moray, in Scotland, is on track to be used as a base for the company's spacecraft from 2011.

Virgin Galactic, owned by billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson, will charge 110,000 pounds (209,600 dollars, 162,900 euros) a ticket to give passengers to experience weightlessness for five minutes.

It plans to operate around seven spacecraft that will fly 87 miles (156 kilometres) above the earth's surface.

Whitehorn, speaking after a visit to the base on Wednesday, said: "I met with all the officers on the base today and we agreed it was perfectly technically feasible."

Virgin Galactic's main base will be located in New Mexico, in the United States, Whitehorn said, with "satellite" stations at other sites around the world.

Passengers would be sent up in a spaceship attached to a separate airplane, with the two craft separating at an altitude of about 49,000 feet (14,900 metres).

The spacecraft would then leave the Earth's atmosphere for about 15 minutes, including five minutes of weightlessness.

Test flights are due to start in California next year, and commercial flights could begin three years later. Five spaceships and two aircraft are being built over the next four years.

Virgin Galactic said last month it had taken 200 bookings for its space flights.