A Bahrain spaceport?

It looks like this week is spaceport week for the personal spaceflight industry. A front-page article in the Bahrain Tribune on Thursday claimed that Virgin Galactic was planning to establish a spaceport in Bahrain for suborbital space tourism. (The article is no longer available on the newspaper’s web site, and its JavaScript-based system makes permalinks effectively impossible.) The article claimed that Virgin based the decision on the Persian Gulf nation’s “infrastructure and ideal geo-political positioning.” The decision, officially under wraps according to unnamed sources cited in the article, could be revealed as soon as February.

Virgin Galactic quickly moved to squash the rumors, telling Bloomberg News, TradeArabia, and another Bahrain newspaper, the Gulf Daily News, that the company had no plans to establish a spaceport in Bahrain, or anywhere else in the Persian Gulf. “We have looked at Sweden and the possibility of opening one in Scotland,” Virgin Galactic spokeswoman Jackie McQuillan told the Gulf Daily News, “But as for opening one in Bahrain, or even in Dubai, that is not true at all.”

The Daily News article leans on its own unnamed sources to say that even if Branson elected to establish a spaceport at some point in the region, it most likely would be in Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE, citing Branson’s visit to Dubai earlier this year, where the subject of a spaceport came up. Ras Al Khaimah, another emirate within the UAE, already has plans to develop a spaceport in cooperation with Space Adventures.

While the Tribune article might be short on facts (among other things, it calls Rocketplane Kistler’s George French a “billionaire” and Canadian Arrow’s Geoff Sheerin a “tycoon”), it does make a point that a spaceport in Bahrain, or elsewhere in the region, would be “more viable and easier to access for this part of the world.” Not everyone will want to travel to New Mexico or California or Oklahoma just to fly into space, and many people will want to see their own region of the world from space, rather than the potentially unfamiliar geography of the American Southwest. There may not be any plans in the works now for a Virgin Galactic spaceport in Bahrain or the Persian Gulf region, but if the company is successful it may only be a matter of time before one is developed.

5 comments to A Bahrain spaceport?

  • Chance

    I wonder how many spaceports the region can handle economically? I believe I asked this same question a while back about US spaceports, and that answer is probably the same: we won’t know until they are there and operating for a while.

  • Ken Gosier

    Just a procedural question: How do you manage to keep up with these far-flung news services, like the Bahrain tribune? Do you have some kind of a google news hack?

    Many thanks, just curious, great website! :-)

  • Jeff Foust

    Chance: you’re right in that we don’t really know how many spaceports that region (or worldwide) for that matter, can support. It will depend on the number of operators, their sortie rates, and levels of demand. Given the concentration of wealthy people in that part of the world, though, it’s not unreasonable to think that there would be enough interest to support at least one spaceport for suborbital space tourism.

    Ken: you mean you don’t read the Bahrain Tribune on a daily basis? :) Actually, you’ve pretty much right: I scan Google News on a regular basis for stories about space tourism and key companies in the field to find news articles from relatively obscure publications on relevant topics.

  • Branson denying a rumor. Dog bites man.

  • Correction, man bitten by own petard.

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