European companies plan to ‘democratise’ access to space, with trials of technology to begin in 2020
A group of European space companies plans to offer “budget” trips to space tourists from Spain’s Canary Islands.
Grégoire Loretan of Swiss Space Systems, the company leading the push, said trials were expected to begin in 2020 of technology that would allow the public an experience previously accessible only to astronauts and millionaires.
“Our goal is to democratise the access to space,” said Loretan.
Launching from a base near Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, one of the largest tourist towns in the Canary Islands, the trips into space will be relatively low-cost because the group plans to use an Airbus 300 aircraft attached to a space shuttle.
Passengers would be transported six miles (10km) above Earth. From there, the shuttle would detach from the plane and travel up to 60 miles farther into space before returning to Earth. The spacecraft would have room for up to six people.
The group plans to operate much like an airline, reusing the spacecraft for each journey. Once the trials begin, Loretan said, the company will work as fast as possible to start sending tourists into space. “But it depends on certification and on a lot of factors out of our control.”
Ticket prices have yet to be finalised, but Loretan said the aim was to make them as cheap as possible.
The island of Gran Canaria was chosen as a base, said the group, for both its growing tourism industry and its location in the Atlantic Ocean, allowing spacecraft to be launched away from populated areas.
By: Ashifa Kassam
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