February 4, 2005

Volvo to give away seat in first commercial space flight

Irvine, California – Volvo is teaming up with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial space tourism operator, to give away a seat on its first commercial flight some time in the next two to three years.

The contest will be announced in a commercial during the Superbowl. In the 30-second ad, Volvo unveils its new Volvo XC90 V8 SUV by comparing its power to a rocket blasting into space. Near the commercial’s end, the ship’s pilot reveals himself as billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of The Virgin Group of Companies.

Virgin Galactic officially begins operations this year and, subject to the necessary safety and regulatory approvals, plans to begin operating flights in 2007. Over five years Virgin expects to train around 3,000 astronauts and will reinvest revenues generated from the flights into a new generation of vehicles for further space ventures.

The technology for Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft will be modeled after the world’s first privately funded, reusable space vehicle SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 won the Ansari X Prize by becoming the first privately funded, manned suborbital space flight. Taking off from a traditional runway, the spacecraft is powered into sub-orbit by a hybrid engine. During the flight, passengers experience weightlessness, view the start above and see planet Earth below.
On its return to Earth, the spacecraft morphs into a V-shaped “shuttlecock,” enabling it to gently drift back through the atmosphere without overheating. It then morphs back into a conventional aircraft shape ready for landing.

To enter, log onto www.boldlygo.com this Sunday through February 22nd. Volvo, along with Virgin Galactic, will unveil the winner March 24 at the New York International Auto Show. The value of a seat on the sub-orbital flight – which also includes three days of pre-flight training – is U.S.$200,000.

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