Lift-off for Swedish space tourism

An agreement was signed on Friday which will enable space travel for tourists from Kiruna in northern Sweden from 2012. For around 1.4 million kronor tourists will get to spend five minutes in a weightless environment 120 kilometres above the earth's surface.

A private individual from Sweden is among those who have already paid 200,000 dollars for the privilege of a space flight with Virgin Galactic, according to Mattias Abrahamsson from Esrange, the European Space and Sounding Rocket Range.

The agreement was signed by British company Virgin Galactic and Spaceport Sweden, a new company consisting of several Kiruna-based businesses, including the Swedish Space Corporation.

According to the company’s website, “the aim of Spaceport Sweden is to make Kiruna Europe’s first and most obvious place for personal suborbital spaceflight”.

Sweden’s deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson was in attendance when the chairman of the board of Virgin Galactic, Will Whitehorn, and Spaceport Sweden’s chairman, Claes-Göran Borg, put pen to paper.

Virgin Galactic plans to launch its first forays into space travel for paying passengers from a base in New Mexico in 2009.

One of the reasons Virgin Galactic became interested in Kiruna was the opportunity it provided for passengers to fly through the Northern Lights.

The town’s historic ties with the space industry and its proximity to Esrange were also decisive factors.