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| 06 August, 2018

UAE could partner with firms for commercial space flights

The UAE is also sending its first Emirati astronaut to the ISS using the Soyuz MS-12 mission in April, 2019.

Image used for illustrative purposes. 
The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft carrying the crew formed of astronauts Serena Aunon-Chancellor of the U.S, Alexander Gerst of Germany and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan June 6, 2018.

Image used for illustrative purposes. The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft carrying the crew formed of astronauts Serena Aunon-Chancellor of the U.S, Alexander Gerst of Germany and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan June 6, 2018.

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Affordable space flights for commercial use could be possible, however, that can take decades, according to experts.

Commercial space flights will enable scientists and researchers from any country, including the UAE, to have easier access to spaceaccording to a UAE space expert.

The comments were made following the news that Nasa has assigned nine crew members to the first test flights for missions on US-built commercial spacecrafts - the Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

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This is the first time since 2011 (when the USA's space shuttle retired) that astronauts will launch from the US soil and from American-made spacecrafts.

Countries have been launching their astronauts from Russia for a long while now, as the Russian Soyuz is currently the only spacecraft that can send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The UAE is also sending its first Emirati astronaut to the ISS using the Soyuz MS-12 mission in April, 2019.

"Commercial space flights will greatly expand the space industry as a whole. With additional companies providing access to space beyond just a few governments (Russia, China and the USA) it will allow scientists, researchers and explorers from any country to have access to space. With the additional access to space, new industries will develop in the years ahead at an increasing rate," said Lissy Donald, managing director of Compass International - a UAE-based firm that is the regional partner of Nasa and the US and Space Rocket Centre.

"It is quite possible that the UAE government will contract for flights to space with both Space X and Boeing as well as with Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft, which will be flying to space in about 18 to 24 months. Initially, the Space X and Boeing flights will be 'test flights' and flights of crew and cargo to the International Space Station. But in a few years, the flight rates and opportunities for other nationals to fly to space will greatly increase."

Ticket prices for customers who want a seat on the SpaceX's Crew Dragon or Boeing's CST-100 Starliner have not yet been revealed. However, a ticket for a seat on the Virgin Galactic has been estimated at a price of $250,000.

It has been widely reported in the media worldwide that Nasa pays more than $70 million per seat to Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, to send its astronaut to the ISS using their spacecraft. Using American-made spacecrafts and launching from the US soil is a more affordable option for the US.

Donald said that affordable space flights for commercial use could be possible, however, that can take decades.

"As technology improves, it is certainly possible for the cost of space travel to decrease but it will take significant technology breakthroughs to truly lower the cost of space travel to a more 'affordable level'. This will very likely take more than 30 years but could be reduced with additional investment by private companies and national governments," she said.

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