Mid East at forefront of $7.5 billion space tourism industry

Space and satellite forum to highlight regional business opportunities for private and public sector investors - tourists will fly into space for $25,000 by 2030

The plethora of opportunities for private and public sector investors throughout the region that exist in the commercial space and satellite industry will be examined during the third annual Global Space & Satellite Forum (GSSF), in Abu Dhabi on 9-11 May.

With many aspects of commercial space and satellite services continuing to take giant strides forward, it is highly appropriate that Abu Dhabi should be hosting one of the leading international space and satellite conferences. Having just arrived in French Guiana, Yahsat’s Y1A satellite which is due to be launched in the coming weeks, highlights the crucial investment role that Abu Dhabi and the wider Middle East is playing.

Indeed those involved in space tourism are looking towards the Middle East for further funding. “Virgin Galactic and Bigelow Aerospace have already set up investment deals with UAE groups and perhaps it’s only a matter of time before we see another international space company's development being funded from the Middle East,” said Nick Webb, Director, Streamline Marketing Group, organisers of GSSF 2011.

At the moment the cost of a return ticket to outer space for the first flights stands between $95,000 and $200,000, depending on the flight provider, but these prices will fall as capacity increases. Some experts estimate that the typical price to fly into space by 2030 will be around $25,000.

"Even if we take a conservative estimate of the market size to be around 250,000 to 300,000 people travelling into space by 2030, we're looking at an industry worth up to $7.5 billion," added Webb.

One US-based company that is making great strides in development is XCOR Aerospace which will be presenting an update of its commercial space flight vehicle ‘The Lynx’ and the opportunities that exist for investors to become involved.

With Lynx commercial operations starting in 2012 and production deliveries starting later the following year, XCOR, has already signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for the ‘wet lease’ of Lynx vehicles, representing over $50 million of back orders. The first two customers are Yecheon Astro Space Centre of South Korea and Netherlands-based Space Experience Curacao (SXC). The Curacao agreement will see SXC market and XCOR operate, suborbital space tourism and scientific research flights out of Space Port Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. Furthermore, in an exciting development, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has signed on to co-market SXC flights and include them in their frequent flyer programme.

XCOR anticipates commercial flights in the US to start in late 2012, with production Lynx vehicles flying internationally by 2014. XCOR's COO, Andrew Nelson said that the company continues to develop and produce safe, reliable and reusable rocket powered vehicles, propulsion systems, advanced non-flammable composites and other enabling technologies.

"We're building the Lynx, have a robust wet lease order book and we’re making engines for other customers," Nelson said. "We're always delighted to talk to potential investors and partners interested to join us in our development programme".

As with most pioneering technology a continuous stream of funding will be required and the GCC region is attractive in that respect primarily due to its relative liquidity, robust oil prices and substantial sovereign wealth funds.

The combined sovereign wealth funds of the GCC countries stands at over $1.36 trillion, the largest being Abu Dhabi at $664 billion, with Saudi Arabia at $420 billion and Kuwait $203 billion, Qatar $65 billion, Dubai $19.6 billion and Oman $8.2 billion, according to a 2010 report by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.




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