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Swede signs up to Virgin Galactic space flight

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Swede signs up to Virgin Galactic space flight
Sir Richard Branson at the launch of the VSS Enterprise
13:48 CET+01:00
A Malmö man has become the first Swede to sign up to Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space adventure after he shelled out 1.4 million kronor to fly to the frontier of space.

"It feels great and we are very proud," said Andreas Axelsson at Malmö-based Nätresebyrån, which sold the ticket, to the Metro newspaper.

According to Virgin Galactic's website the unnamed Skåne man has joined a further 300 "Virgin Galactic Astronauts" who have paid the fee to join the queue for a trip to around 110 kilometres above the Earth's surface.

The firm hopes to begin space trips in 2012 with the VSS Enterprise (or SpaceShipTwo) carrying eight passengers at a time up to a point just above the Kármán Line - named after the Hungarian-American engineer Theodore von Kármán and commonly used to define the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

The first flights will depart from the Virgin Galactic Spaceport in the Mojave desert in California with the Esrange base in Kiruna in northern Sweden set to be the hub for the European market.

"We are all set. Virgin Galactic have said that the first flights will leave from our sister Spaceport in the US (Mojave) in 2012. We are ready to manage the commercial space flights when they expand to Europe," Johanna Bergström-Roos at Spaceport Sweden told The Local on Thursday.

While Bergström-Roos was keen to point out that the Kiruna Spaceport's main business is its research community, she welcomed the dawn of space tourism, predicting a significant impact on Kiruna and northern Sweden.

"When space tourism arrives it will be great. We have developed a three pronged approach to develop Kiruna as a space city in combination with our commercial partners, which include the Ice Hotel," she said.

Bergström-Roos confirmed to The Local that while Spaceport Sweden is open to all operators, it is Virgin Galactic that have come closest to realizing the lofty goal of space travel for the common man, albeit with a price tag to match.

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