February 18, 2006 Space Adventures today announced plans to develop a commercial spaceport in Ras Al-Khaimah (the UAE), with plans to expand globally. Other potential spaceport locations include Asia, specifically Singapore, and North America. The total estimated cost of the global spaceport development project is claimed to be at least US$265 million and will be funded by various parties, along with shared investments by Space Adventures and the government of Ras Al-Khaimah. The company, which organized orbital flights for all of the world's private space explorers, also announces that His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi of Ras Al-Khaimah, along with the UAE Department of Civilian Aviation, have granted clearance to operate suborbital spaceflights in their air space.
The UAE spaceport, planned to be located less than an hour drive from Dubai, already has commitments for US$30 million.
"I am proud to announce Ras Al-Khaimah as the site where suborbital commercial space travel will begin and flourish. Space Adventures is the pioneer of space tourism, which is why we signed an agreement with them nearly a year ago and began this project. After we initiate operations here, we look forward to expanding operations outside of the United Arab Emirates. In this regard, I would also like to announce that we have committed an additional $30 million (USD) of funding for global spaceport development. We are most excited about spearheading this multi-billion dollar industry," said His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the Crown Prince of Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.
"Because of Ras Al-Khaimah's unique airport and spaceport support facilities, His Highness' commitment to space tourism, and the close proximity to Dubai, one of the world's leading luxury tourist destinations, makes it a choice location for spaceflight operations," said Mr. Anderson. "As a global leader of tourism, the United Arab Emirates is an ideal location for a spaceport. Suborbital flights will offer millions of people the opportunity to experience the greatest adventure available, space travel. We are honored to partner with His Highness Sheikh Saud."
The suborbital space transportation system has been designed by Myasishchev Design Bureau, a leading Russian aerospace organization which has developed a wide-array of high performance aircraft and space systems. Explorer, as it has been named, will have the capacity to transport up to five people to space and is designed to optimize the customer experience of space travel, while maintaining the highest degree of safety.
The Explorer Aerospace System consists of a flight-operational carrier aircraft, the M-55X, and a rocket spacecraft. The vehicle is designed to optimize the customer experience of space travel. "We've designed the Explorer with several exciting features that will be announced in the near future that will make the customer's experience fantastic.
Additionally, the safety of the passengers is our chief aim and the Explorer will make use of several multi-redundant safety systems that we have unique experience in designing and implementing for the last 40 years," said Valery Novikov, head designer at the Myasishchev Design Bureau.
"Explorer design plans have been perfected over the years and it will be a truly remarkable system. Yesterday, we announced our fully-funded vehicle development joint venture with Prodea, a private investment firm founded by the Ansari family. Now, the manufacturing process can be completed to build a fleet of these vehicles in the near future," said Mr. Anderson. "We will not disclose the development schedule until it has been finalized but we, at Space Adventures, along with Prodea, have the utmost confidence that through our global vehicle and spaceport development projects, we will enable operations of the world's first commercial suborbital flights."
"The Department of Civil Aviation has examined and evaluated all the technical aspects and we, along with relevant federal authorities, are supportive of the operation of commercial suborbital spaceflight in UAE air space," said Eng. Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation. "We support Space Adventures' development of a spaceport at the Ras Al-Khaimah International Airport, and we view this project as a technological enhancement to the region that will bring visitors to the Emirates from around the world."
Space Adventures, the only company to have successfully launched private explorers to space, is headquartered in Arlington, Va. with offices in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Moscow and Tokyo. It offers a variety of programs such as the availability today for orbital spaceflight missions to the International Space Station, commercial missions around the moon, Zero-Gravity and MiG flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecrafts. The company's advisory board comprises Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, shuttle astronauts Kathy Thornton, Robert (Hoot) Gibson, Charles Walker, Norm Thagard, Sam Durrance, Byron Lichtenberg, Pierre Thuot and Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott.
Ras Al-Khaimah is the most northern of the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates, which also includes Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah. It borders Oman on its Northern and Eastern limits. It covers 1,684 sq. km, has 64 km of pristine natural coastline, and beautiful mountains on the northern boarder. Ras Al-Khaimah has witnessed massive development in recent years and now boasts one of the largest pharmaceutical firms in the region, a world-leading ceramics industry, and a burgeoning tourist sector with world-class hotels and resorts. Ras Al-Khaimah has embarked on an ambitious development program including investments in infrastructure improvement, tourism, shopping, and efforts to attract industrial and commercial enterprises. Among the most important of these endeavors is the establishment of the Ras Al-Khaimah Free Trade Zone. The Ras Al-Khaimah International Airport is rapidly expanding, and offers excellent services and facilities for all types of flight operations.