Space Tourism close to reality -Virgin Galactics touches space
Richard Branson’s space-tourism venture, Virgin Galactic LLC, reached the edge of space in a test flight Thursday, four years after a fatal accident set back the project, in a feat expected to accelerate commercial efforts to send tourists and small satellites aloft using low-cost rockets.
The space plane called SpaceShip Two, with its two pilots, was launched from a carrier aircraft flying high above Southern California’s Mojave Desert. For around USD 250,000 a seat, Virgin Galactic seeks to offer thrill rides featuring majestic views of the earth capped by a few minutes of weightlessness.
After the flight, the closely held company said SpaceShip Two had climbed above 271,000 feet, or about 51.4 miles, reaching a maximum speed of 2.9 times the speed of sound.
“We will now push on with the remaining portion of our flight test program, which will see the rocket motor burn for longer and VSS Unity fly still faster and higher,” Branson said in a statement after the landing.
“I could not be more proud of our teams, who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration,” tweeted Branson.
“What we witnessed today is more compelling evidence that commercial space is set to become one of the twenty-first century’s defining industries. Reusable vehicles built and operated by private companies are about to transform our business and personal lives in ways which are as yet hard to imagine,” said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.
Virgin had originally planned to get to this point years earlier, but delayed its program when Unity’s predecessor crashed in 2014, killing one pilot and injuring another. Now back in action and making real progress toward a commercial launch, it has a backlog of 600 people from 50 countries who have reserved places for a paid trip into space, and a look back at the Earth from a new perspective.