The famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, northern Sweden, has extended its relationship with Virgin Galactic which staged the first flight of its SpaceShipTwo this week and announced it was likely the company’s first passenger flights in to space would begin late next year or early 2012.
Ice Hotel staff were at the official launch of SpaceSkiopTwo, hosted by Virgin Founder and Chairman Sir Richard Branson and the spaceship designer Burt Rutan, in the Mojave desert in California last December where they created a temporary ice bar.
Virgin Galactic’s pioneering project is now in its final stages. The unveiling of SpaceShipTwo marks the next critical step in bringing space tourism to the general public, a privilege that has so far been limited to astronauts and those with the means to spend $20 million for a flight.
Virgin Galactic’s space flights will have a lower price of a hundredth of that figure, US$200,000. Already, approximately 300 people from around the world have paid nearly $40 million in deposits to guarantee an early seat.
Based on the design of SpaceShipOne, the historic vehicle that completed three successful spaceflights in 2004, thus claiming the $10 million Ansari X-Prize, SpaceShipTwo is the next generation of spacecraft built for the specific purpose of taking passengers into suborbital space. WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier aircraft that will launch SpaceShipTwo from 50,000 feet, was unveiled in July 2008 and is well into a successful test flight program.
Ice Hotel is a part-owner of Spaceport Sweden located in the nearby city of Abisko, and one of the possible launch sites for Virgin Galactic’s space flights. It is close to a number of classic ski areas in the Swedish Arctic, including Riksgransen, which offers skiing under the midnight sun in late May and in to June each year.