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Virgin Galactic’s space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2) will take its first commercial flight on Christmas Day. Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic’s space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2) will take its first commercial flight on Christmas Day. Virgin Galactic

Christmas Day lift-off into space for Virgin Galactic and Abu Dhabi

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company co-owned by Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments, will stage its first flight this year, Richard Branson revealed during a visit to Dubai.

DUBAI // Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company co-owned by Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments, will stage its first flight on Christmas Day this year.

Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group co-owns Virgin Galactic, said in Dubai yesterday that he would be on board the first public flight on December 25.

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Ashton Kutcher are among the celebrities believed to have also bought tickets for the flight.

The news follows the first successful test of SpaceShipTwo, which took off from a space port in the Mojave Desert in California on April 29.

Tickets for the high-atmosphere flight, which will involve several moments of weightlessness, cost around US$200,000.

Aabar paid US$280 million (Dh1.02 billion) for 31.8 per cent of Virgin Galactic’s holding company in 2009, and later raised its stake to 37.8 per cent.

Appearing on Virgin Radio Dubai’s morning show, Mr Branson said he also hoped there would one day be a space port in Abu Dhabi. “Hopefully people from this whole region will be able to go,” he was quoted in local media. “We are still talking to the Abu Dhabi government.

“They are very keen to do it. Once we’ve got the programme up and running the next space port likely to be built will be in Abu Dhabi.”

Mr Branson was appearing on the Kris Fade show, which was broadcast live from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa.

Later in the day Mr Branson travelled to Lebanon to officially launch the country’s new Virgin Radio station.

mcroucher@thenational.ae

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