To aid a European suborbital tourism industry the European Space Agency might provide astronaut training, but its first step is expected to be an annual conference or workshops to facilitate a dialogue between companies and other potential stakeholders.

Such training and forums have been identified in ESA's new space tourism position paper. In the paper the agency envisages it providing human spaceflight services including astronaut training, engaging in partnerships with European space tourism ventures and contributing to the development of the necessary pan-European related legal framework.

ESA has already been involved in space tourism studies, managing a European Union project and awarding UK company Starchaser Industries euro150,000 ($233,000) for collaborative work.

The ESA general studies programmes manager overseeing the tourism work, Andrés Gálvez, says: "We learnt a lot from this [Starchaser Industries] study. We wanted to learn how these types of [entrepreneurial] companies work. We were surprised at how differently they operate to the [multinational] companies we normally work with."

On the EU project ESA worked with EADS Astrium and Dassault Aviation. To date the only planned suborbital tourism operation from European soil is Virgin Galactic's agreement with Spaceport Sweden, located near the country's most northern city, Kiruna, to launch from the port early in the next decade.

Source: Flight International