Virgin and KLM - the new space race?

Friday 19 November 2010 01:00

KLM has laid down the gauntlet to Virgin by announcing that it too will offer sub-orbital flights to its customers.

The Dutch flag-carrier said November 17 that it will support Space Experience Curacao by allowing members of its frequent flyer program Flying Blue to redeem points for space flights, as well as including it in future KLM vacation packages.

The deal will also see KLM marketing and selling flights operated by Space Experience Curacao, which use a Lynx suborbital spacecraft provided by California-based XCOR.

Lynx is capable of flying to a height of over 100 km in altitude up to four times a day, allowing two occupants to experience weightlessness before landing horizontally.

The flights are scheduled to start in January 2014 and pending government approval, will be operated from the island of Curacao, an overseas territory of the Netherlands in the Caribbean.

In October, Virgin unveiled the new runway at Spaceport America in the US state of New Mexico, where its Virgin Galactic space tourism program is based.

It is scheduled to come into use in 2012 when the VSS Enterprise, a six-seat craft designed to reach suborbital altitudes, begins taking its first passengers into space.

While Virgin is charging a $200,000 (€146,500) ticket price for its first flights, it could be undercut by KLM, which is reportedly planning to charge €70,000 a flight.

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