Sir Richard Branson has started an awful lot of travel-related companies, to the point where he was knighted at Buckingham Palace for “services to entrepreneurship.” His travel-related portfolio includes Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Virgin Trains, Virgin Express, Virgin Nigeria (that one closed up shop in 2009), Virgin America (now integrated into Alaska Airlines) and Virgin Hotels.
But I think the most exciting one, especially for those who have dreamed of space travel, is the up and coming Virgin Galactic!
Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company that’s developing commercial spacecraft, with the goal to provide suborbital spaceflights to tourists and suborbital launches for space station missions. It was founded in 2004 and testing of spacecraft began in 2009. There have been several delays, including a tragic one in 2014, when, during flight testing, the space vehicle broke apart in midair, killing the co-pilot and severely injuring the pilot.
After investigations were over and the Federal Aviation Administration re-issued the company a commercial operating license, Virgin Galactic went back to building and improving its spacecraft, and they successfully completed a powered test flight in April, 2018. Brought way above California’s Mojave Desert by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, one of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes, VSS Unity, was released at 46,500 feet. A second or two later, Unity’s rocket motor fired up, which sent sent the aircraft and its two pilots into an 80-degree climb as they accelerated to Mach 1.87 during 30 seconds of rocket burn before they successfully descended and landed back in the Mohave Desert.
With this positive test flight under their belt, the hope is to begin commercial flights by the end of the year.
Their goal of tourism includes passengers being able to experience a few minutes of microgravity, as well as see the curvature of Earth against the blackness of space. Each flight will take about 2-1/2 hours.
Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft are designed to hold 6 customers and 2 pilots and tickets are available for $250,000. To date, about 700 people, including Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber, have already signed up to take a ride on SpaceShipTwo, one of Virgin Galactics spacecrafts.
If you’re interested in more information, you can click here to check out Virgin Galactic’s website. Happy flying! 😉
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