The government of Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) unveiled on 17 February an ambitious plan to develop a commercial spaceport in the emirate. The project will be carried out in conjunction with the US' Space Adventures, which until now has been the only company to launch tourism flights into space. The spaceport, which is still in its conceptual stage, would initially comprise a hangar and a visitor centre with a total built-up area of about 20,000 square metres. 'We are only now talking about suborbital flights, so it will be a flight plus a training package that may take about a week and include various training and screening elements to prepare for flight,' Sheikh Salem bin Sultan al-Qasimi, chairman of RAK's Department of Civil Aviation, told MEED on 21 February.
The venture will be the first of several spaceports planned across the world. It will be developed jointly by RAK and Space Adventures. Total investment is anticipated to reach about $265 million, with the RAK government providing $30 million in equity. The remainder will be financed through a private placement. The project has been approved by the UAE authorities to operate flights within the federation's airspace. However, Sheikh Salem declined to give a timeframe for when flights would begin. The project aims to tap into the federation's growing number of tourists and is the latest in a string of projects aimed at diversifying the emirate's economy. Space Adventures began operating space flights in 2001 and so far has sent three millionaires into space.