Commercial spaceline Virgin Galactic is set to announce its first European spaceport location later this month in an event in Sweden's northernmost city, Kiruna.
Virgin Galactic has hinted before in the past that the Arctic city of Kiruna, which is used as a cold weather trial station for aircraft and automotive projects, would be considered due to its remote location in Swedish Lapland. The region north of the Arctic Circle is an immense snow-scape, where reindeer in the pine forests are practically the sole inhabitants.
Kiruna, an iron ore mining town, is the northernmost Swedish city and the location for the Swedish Space Corporation's 9,000km2 (3,500sq. mile) rocket sounding range, Esrange. Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn had previously suggested starting space toursim flights with a voyage through the Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights). "No human being has ever flown into an aurora borealis," says Whitehorn. "You have to go beyond the edge of space. I think that will be a magical and mystical experience."
Kiruna is also home to the orginial Ice Hotel accommodation made entirely from blocks of compacted snow and local ice.
© Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic announced today that it will hold an inauguration event at "Spaceport Sweden" on 26 January. Spaceport Sweden, to be located at Kiruna Arena Arctica airport is a joint venture between the Swedish Space Corporation, Icehotel, the Swedish airport oprtaor and air navigation services provider Luftfartsverket and Kiruna-based venture capitalists Progressum. The companies say the aim of launching Spaceport Sweden is to it Europe’s "first and most obvious" (although not sole) "place for personal suborbital spaceflight".
Virgin Galactic has named two sites as its spaceports, the original Scaled Composites' site in Mojave, California and Spaceport America to be built near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Spaceport Sweden would thus be the third location to be announced in a plan for several spaceports around the world for Virgin Galactic.