The author of the bestseller, A Brief History of Time, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, will soon experience a brief history with weightlessness.

Hawking, who uses a wheelchair and is almost completely paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, plans to go on a weightless flight on April 26, officials in Florida said.

The flight, operated by Zero Gravity Corporation, a Florida-based space tourism and entertainment company, will take off and return to a landing strip at the Kennedy Space Centre.

"As someone who has studied gravity and black holes all of my life, I am excited to experience first-hand weightlessness and a zero-gravity environment," Hawking said in a statement.

Zero Gravity Corporation uses a modified Boeing 727 jet to deliver the feeling of weightlessness to customers.The plane climbs to about 9,000 metres at a sharp angle and then plunges 2,700 metres. Inside the descending aircraft, passengers experience 25-second snippets of zero gravity.

Zero Gravity CEO Peter Diamandis said assistants will be onboard to help Hawking.

"The key thing here is that weightless and personal spaceflight is something available to everyone, even someone like Prof. Hawking," Diamandis told the Associated Press.

Zero Gravity will pick up the bill, which normally is $3,750 US. The company also plans to have two seats on the flight auctioned off to provide money to charities.

The company began offering the flights in 2004.

Last year, Hawking publicly spoke of his desire to go into space and made an appeal to Sir Richard Branson, whose company, Virgin Galactic, is building a suborbital spaceship that could be flying passengers beyond Earth's atmosphere by 2009.

Branson has decided he will personally finance Hawking's ticket into space — a flight that would normally cost $200,000 US.

With files from the Associated Press