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Swiss Space keen to build Spaceport in Croatia

Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 14:46

[ZAGREB] Swiss Space Systems, a commercial space travel and research company, known as S3, wants to build a 60 million-euro (US$68 million) spaceport in Croatia to offer tourists zero-gravity flights, Danko Bosanac, head of office at S3's Croatian unit, said.

The Payerne, Switzerland-based company is seeking investors to build the port in Udbina in southern Croatia, by 2017, Bosanac said in an interview in Zagreb on Feb 23. It's awaiting a license from the local authorities, he said. This would be the second such project in Europe for S3, which plans to offer zero- gravity flights from its Swiss base later this year.

"Udbina was chosen because there are few places in Europe with such open skies in a flat field, with easy access and a favorable climate, as well as nearby tourist centers," Mr Bosanac, a former physicist at a Zagreb institute, said in an interview.

Croatia, which joined the European Union in 2013, wants to boost income from tourism as it struggles to emerge from a six- year recession. Tourism, centered around the country's 5,800km island-dotted Adriatic coast, accounts for about one-fifth of the country's US$50 billion economy.

S3 Croatia will first offer zero-gravity parabolic flights as high as 15km above ground which make it possible to experience weightlessness, allowing bodies and materials to float free of the earth's gravitational pull, according to Bosanac. They will last less than 2 hours and S3 will charge from 2,000 euros to 50,000 euros per passenger depending on the luxury options chosen, according to its website.

At a later stage, suborbital space flights of as high as 150km into space, with return to the launch location, will be added, as well as suborbital intercontinental flights with short travel times, Mr Bosanac said.

"Imagine traveling from Udbina to near New York or Tokyo in one hour," Bosanac said. "The Udbina operation intends to follow the Payerne operation in all the stages, including providing research and engineering work." Udbina, with a population of 1,800, lies in the Krbava plains and is connected to the Adriatic coast by a six-kilometer tunnel through the rugged mountain range of Velebit. There is a nearby airfield built by the former Yugoslav army forces.

S3 partners include Dassault Aviation SA, Kuznetsov OJSC and Airbus Group NV, among others.

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