KLM airline backing Curacao space-flight venture

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Nov 18 (BestGrowthStock) – KLM Royal Dutch
Airlines is partnering with a commercial suborbital
space-flight venture planning to operate out of the Caribbean
island of Curacao, officials said on Thursday.

KLM, a division of Europe’s largest airline, Air France-KLM
(AIRF.PA: ), has purchased “a few” tickets for suborbital
spaceflights through Space Experience Curacao, a private
venture backed by two Dutch entrepreneurs that plans to operate
a two-seater Lynx suborbital spaceship being developed by XCOR
Aerospace of Mojave, California.

“We’re enthusiastic about this,” Gedi Schrijver, a
spokeswoman for the airline, told Reuters.

She declined to be more specific about the number of
tickets purchased by KLM bought or how they would be used. The
advertised price for rides on a Lynx are $95,000. One person
rides alongside the pilot.

A news release, jointly issued by XCOR and Space Experience
Curacao, said KLM plans to offer suborbital spaceflights for
frequent flyer mileage redemptions and in vacation packages.

Space Experience Curacao announced last month its intention
to lease a Lynx suborbital spacecraft, pending U.S. government
approvals for the vehicle to be located on the island of
Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. Commercial spaceflights
are scheduled to be in January 2014. XCOR would provide
operational support at the proposed Space Port Curacao.

A similar service, backed by billionaire Richard Branson’s
London-based Virgin Group, is setting up commercial space
operations in New Mexico.

Mojave, California-based Scaled Composites, a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N: ), has begun test
flights of a six-passenger, two-pilot suborbital spaceship it
built for aspiring space line operator Virgin Galactic, which
has collected more than $50 million in deposits for rides that
cost $200,000 per person.

Both ventures will offer passengers a few minutes of
weightlessness beyond Earth’s atmosphere and a view of the
planet from a vantage point of about 65 miles <105 km) above ground. (Editing by Tom Brown and Steve Orlofsky)

KLM airline backing Curacao space-flight venture