CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Swiss Space Systems is setting up a U.S. division to offer parabolic airplane rides from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the company announced March 14. The flights would be similar to those conducted by Zero Gravity Corp., which is owned by the Arlington, Va.-based tourism firm Space Adventures.

Since 2004, Zero Gravity has been operating a Boeing 727 that flies parabolic arcs to simulate weightlessness, similar to NASA’s now-retired KC-135 reduced gravity aircraft. 

Each parabolic maneuver provides about 10 to 17 seconds of near-weightlessness for passengers and payloads. By changing the plane’s angle of descent, lunar and martian gravity can be simulated as well.

Zero Gravity Corp. provides reduced gravity flights for NASA and sells rides to outside researchers, businesses and tourists. Its website lists ticket prices as $4,950 plus tax per person. 

Swiss Space Systems’ fares were not immediately available.

The company’s new subsidiary, S3 USA Operations, signed an agreement with Space Florida to use Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) for flight operations, which are scheduled to begin next year.

NASA is turning over the SLF to Space Florida, the state-backed economic development agency, to develop it for commercial use.

Swiss Space Systems also is considering using the SLF for a planned small-satellite launching business.