Virgin Galactic, the Richard Branson owned company might end up sending people to space this year itself – by Christmas.
Indeed, if Virgin Galactic can manage to achieve its target of sending astronauts to space by the end of the year, it will one up Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in the race for space tourism.
Here are the details.
Richard Branson says he’s ‘confident’ of achieving the target
In an interview , Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said that he was “pretty confident” about achieving the space tourism milestone by the end of 2019.
However, the billionaire entrepreneur also said that the first few flights to space would be “the dangerous ones”.
If successful, Virgin Galactic would finally achieve its target and pave way for commercial spaceflight.
What ‘going to space’ means for Virgin Galactic
The spaceflights would be carried out using Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo dubbed VSS Unity.
The spacecraft would be launched into space from Virgin Galactic’s mothership from an altitude of 15km.
Once detached from the mothership, VSS Unity would accelerate to reach its top speed of 2,300mph in a mere eight seconds.
The idea is to reach an altitude of 50 miles.
Why an altitude of 50 miles is important
Earlier this year, VSS Unity started powered test flights, and in July, reached a peak altitude of 32.3 miles.
However, the goal is to reach an altitude of 50 miles, as it is the minimum altitude required to earn ‘space wings’ from the US government.
While 50 miles isn’t really an altitude many consider to be “space”, commercial flights at such altitudes would allow passengers to experience weightlessness and see the Earth’s curvature.
The test flights will be carried out by test pilots
The first few test flights to be carried out in December will be done by test pilots.
Once the pilots achieve in reaching the 50 mile-mark multiple times safely, Richard Branson himself might board the VSS Unity for a trip to space.
If the flights are successful and all is deemed to be safe, Virgin Galactic could be flying passengers to space starting next year.
Virgin Galactic has already sold tickets for commercial spaceflight
That said, Branson’s deadlines should be taken with a grain of salt.
SpaceShipTwo has been in development since 2004, and Virgin Galactic had initially estimated commercial spaceflights to begin by 2007.
However, 11 years and one fatal crash later, Virgin Galactic is still trying to reach the 50 mile-mark.
Branson’s answer? “Space is difficult. Rocket science is rocket science.”>