Space Adventures will build its first spaceport in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaima, less than an hour's drive from Dubai, and, in a project estimated to cost at least $265 million, is designing to add further ports in locations such as Singapore and North America.

The US company has also struck a deal with investment firm Prodea to develop rocket ships to take paying customers on sub-orbital flights.

Eric Anderson, the president of Space Adventures, explained the reasoning behind locating the spaceport in the UAE: "
Ras Al-Khaimah's unique airport and spaceport support facilities and the close proximity to Dubai, one of the world's leading luxury tourist destinations, makes it a choice location for spaceflight operations."

"Sub-orbital flights will offer millions of people the opportunity to experience the greatest adventure available, space travel," he said.

Boom industry

The transportation systems and vehicles for the spaceport project are being built by Myasischev Design Bureau,a leading Russian aerospace company, and the experience offered to passengers will be known as Explorer.

Space Adventures made history in 2001 when they propelled American multi-millionaire Dennis Tito into space to spend a week on the Russian Soyuz TM 32 rocket. Tito paid $20 million for the privilege.

Dennis Tito paid $20 million to
become the first space tourist

Since then, the nascent space tourism industry has begun to flourish and Space Adventures' new venture comes after several other organisations announced plans to offer commercial space flights.

Last December, Richard Branson, the Brirish tycoon said his new space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, was to have its headquarters in a $225 million spaceport in New Mexico.

Branson plans to offer short space trips to passengers using technology based on SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded rocket to jet into space.