Since the inception of space travel over 5 decades ago, only 552 people have been outside the Earth’s atmosphere and into outer space. Commercial space flight is one of the missions of Virgin Galactic, a company within founder Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. For those who’ve dreamt of being an astronaut, are curious about space and our planet, or who are seeking the ultimate in adventure, a flight on Virgin Galactic’s newly announced VSS Unity spacecraft should be a definite bucket list item.
Founded in 2004 and headquartered in Pasadena, California, Virgin Galactic is developing the first spacecraft for commercial purposes. With a primary goal of providing suborbital space flights to tourists, eventually, the company plans to also offer orbital human spaceflight. Both types of flights will be operate from Spaceport America, the first commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico. Spaceport America also plays host to the SpaceX Falcon 9R and UP Aerospace.
Virgin Galactic subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, recently unveiled its second vehicle designed specifically for commercial space flight. A turning point for the company, the VSS Unity was four years in the making and it’s reveal in Mojave, California in late February commanded the attention of journalists, scientists and celebrities, including renown physicist, Stephen Hawking and Harrison Ford of Han Solo fame (who better to man the helm of a spaceship after all)?
The Unity has to undergo significant testing to earn its FAA license, which will enable it to carry passengers into suborbital space. These tests include completing test missions at full speed and an altitude of 62 miles above the surface of the Earth.
Each flight requires two separate aircraft. The first is WhiteKnightTwo, which transports Unity to 50,000 feet and deploys the passenger vehicle. Unity, otherwise known as SpaceShipTwo, is the craft that carries two crewmembers and 6 passengers into suborbital space. The pilots will maneuver the craft to allow the best viewing of the Earth as well as the vast inky blackness of space beyond. Passengers will also have an opportunity to leave their seats and experience weightlessness before preparing for reentry.
Each ticket for travel aboard Unity costs $250,000. To date, Virgin Galactic has received $80 million in deposits to secure over 300 trips aboard the world’s first commercial space-liner. For adventure seekers or those enthralled by the idea of space flight and exploration, you may want to book your seat now. For a sneak peek of what a trip among the stars might be like, watch this video or click here to read what it will be like to be an astronaut aboard a Virgin Galactic Space flight.