Private Sub-orbital Spaceflights With Virgin Galactic
All Aboard SpaceShip II!
Founded by Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company that aims to take private space tourist on sub-orbital spaceflights. The flights would be aboard their fleet of SpaceShipTwo aircraft which are either under construction or being flight tested. Virgin Galactic has experienced many delays to its flight schedule, including the 2014 midflight breakup of the SpaceShipTwo; VSS Enterprise.
Facts About Virgin Galactic’s Spaceflight Aboard SpaceShipTwo!
- Virgin Galactic was founded by the eccentric billionaire Sir Richard Branson in 2004 with the aim of making private space tourism accessible to everyone.
- To date over 700 people, including many celebrities, have paid up to USD $250,000 each to make the brief sub-orbital flight into space.
- Branson has made many ambitious claims about when the first sub-orbital spaceflights would commence – originally as early as late 2009! However, Virgin Galactic has experienced many delays designing and testing their SpaceShipTwo spacecraft.
- The spacecraft is based on the X-Prize winning spacecraft SpaceShipOne, which became the world’s first private spacecraft in 2004, but is larger and can seat 6 paying space tourists.
- SpaceShipTwo is an air-launched spacecraft which is released from the large mothership, White Knight Two, at 52,000 ft before the rocket flight to space!
- The space tourists will reach a speed of Mach 3.2 and an altitude of up to 110 km high (above the Kármán line which defines the beginning of space), to experience weightlessness, observe the darkness of space, the curvature of Earth and become official astronauts!
- Weightlessness will last about 6 minutes before SpaceShipTwo begins to reenter the atmosphere, glides back down and lands on the runway it took off from.
- The total carrier flight aboard White knight Two and the suborbital flight into space is expected to take about 2 ½ hours.
- On the 31st of October 2014 tragedy struck when during a rocket-powered spaceflight the VSS Enterprise broke-up in flight destroying the spacecraft and killing the co-pilot.
- Successful test flights of the replacement spacecraft, the VSS Unity, began in late 2016 with two more spacecraft under construction.
- The Virgin Galactic space tourism flights will depart from the specially designed and built Spaceport America in New Mexico before operating from other spaceports around the globe.
- The private suborbital spaceflights for their paying customers are expected to commence in 2018.
- However, Virgin Galactic is not the only company pursuing suborbital spaceflights for tourists with Blue Origin offering spaceflights aboard their New Shepard spacecraft. SpaceX is also planning to send two private space tourists on a lunar odyssey around the Moon and may also announce orbital spaceflights aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft.