Branson looks towards Scotland for space airport lift-off

BILLIONAIRE businessman Richard Branson is considering turning a Scottish RAF base into a space airport.

Bosses from Virgin Galactic were visiting RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland today, to see if it could be used for take-off.

The firm, which is part of Sir Richard's Virgin empire, is planning to send passengers 87 miles above Earth using spaceships attached to aeroplanes.

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Customers who pay around 106,000 for a ticket will get to experience five minutes of weightlessness during their ride.

Five spaceships and two aircraft are being built over the next four years, with flights possibly starting in 2008.

Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn will meet bosses and tour facilities at the Aberdeenshire base today to investigate whether it can be used by the aircraft.

A spokesman for the air base, which is home to Tornado GR4 bombers, said informal discussions between the RAF and Virgin had been going on for three months.

The spokesman added: "There's a very positive will on both sides. Virgin Galactic are very keen, and all the powers here are very keen."

Take-off sites in the Mojave Desert near Los Angeles and New Mexico are also being investigated by Virgin Galactic.

Last month the firm revealed 200 bookings had been taken for its space flights.