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KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to sell rides on XCOR's rocket plane

November 17, 2010 |  8:12 pm

 

As part of its frequent flier program, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will be offering future suborbital flights on a rocket plane to outer space.

Quite a perk, eh?

The airline said Wednesday that it would market and sell flights to customers through a joint venture with Space Experience Curacao, a government-backed space tourism company founded on the Caribbean island.

“KLM will be supporting future suborbital flights through purchases, inclusion in their frequent flyer program, inclusion in future KLM vacation packages to Curacao, and other yet-to-be-named support,” the airline said in a statement.

In early October, Space Experience Curaçao announced that it had struck an agreement with XCOR Aerospace Inc., a Mojave-based commercial space company, to launch its rocket plane from the island and take adventure seekers to more than 327,000 feet, or 62 miles, above the Earth's surface.

At that suborbital altitude, passengers experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. The experience takes place aboard a piloted two-seat, rocket-powered space plane called the Lynx. The cost of the short joy ride? $98,000.

Curacao hopes its commercial airport can become a spaceport as early as 2014. The island is an ideal locale for space trips because of its small population, heavy traffic of tourists and picturesque landscape, with its ice-blue ocean and lush countryside, XCOR has said.

Because Curacao is part of the Netherlands and not the U.S., the island cannot own the spacecraft outright and is leasing it from XCOR instead.

But the venture is likely to get a boost in interest, now that a large commercial airline such as KLM is marketing XCOR flights.

"XCOR is very pleased that the market's acceptance of Lynx is accelerating,” Chief Executive Jeff Greason said in a statement.

XCOR plans to begin test flights at Mojave Air and Space Port sometime in 2011. The 25-employee firm wants to begin taking people into space from the Mojave port shortly thereafter.

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XCOR to launch private rocket plane from Curacao

The private space race takes off

-- W.J. Hennigan

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