Space tourism flights from Scotland could be a reality in just four years time, it has been claimed.
Virgin Galactic wants to offer private space travel
Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic wants to launch commercial space journeys from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, starting as early as 2010.
The company made the announcement on the day its test pilot, Brian Binnie, received an honorary degree from Aberdeen University.
Two years ago, he became the first Scot to fly into space.
And last year the rocket plane SpaceShipOne shot to an altitude of more than 100km for the second time inside a week to claim the $10m Ansari X-Prize.
The vehicle raced straight up into the sky over the Mojave Desert in California, US, with Mr Binnie at the controls.
President of Virgin Galactic Will Whitehorn told BBC Scotland there was a system in development based on the prototype flown by Mr Binnie.
"We are designing it so that we will be able to tour it around the world. So we will have a main base in New Mexico and we are looking at three bases outside there to be able to operate from," Mr Whitehorn said.
"As far as the UK is concerned the only area that we have found that has all the right conditions is the north of Scotland.
"It has relatively little overflying by aircraft, there are not people on the ground who could get injured and RAF Lossiemouth is an ideal location."
He said that test flying of SpaceShipTwo would begin next year and be completed in 2008.
Mr Whitehorn added that commercial operations could begin in 2009, with flights from a Scottish base such as Lossiemouth or Machrahanish the following year.