Fly to Outer Space - Virgin
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Fly to outer Space
Fly to Outer Space And do it soon. Virgin, the company that offers everything from trains to cola will become the first airline to offer space tourism. The new spacecraft developed as part of an international competition will take travelers to 60,000ft above the earth for a dirt cheap $200,000.
Virgin Galactic is a company within Richard Branson's Virgin Group which plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public, along with suborbital space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites. Further in the future Virgin Galactic hopes to offer orbital human spaceflights as well.
Overview of the spacecraft flights
It is planned that the spacecraft will be robust and affordable enough to take paying passengers ($200,000 per person with a $20,000 deposit). As of September 2011, there are around 450 ticket-holders in line to fly with Virgin Galactic. The craft is projected to be a six passenger, two pilot craft. Its planned trajectory will overlap the Earth’s atmosphere at 70,000 feet (21,000 m), which will make it a sub-orbital journey with a short period of weightlessness. The spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, will be carried to about 16 kilometers or 52000 ft by a carrier aircraft, White Knight II. At that point, when the carrier aircraft reaches its maximum height, the SpaceShipTwo vehicle will separate and continue to over 100 km (the Karman line, a common definition of where "space" begins). The time from liftoff of the White Knight booster carrying SpaceShipTwo until the touchdown of SpaceShipTwo after the sub-orbital flight will be about 3.5 hours. The sub-orbital flight itself will only be a small fraction of that time. The weightlessness will last approximately 6 minutes. Passengers will be able to release themselves from their seats during these 6 minutes and float around the cabin.
In addition to the sub-orbital passenger business, Virgin Galactic will market SpaceShipTwo for sub-orbital space science missions and market WhiteKnightTwo for "small satellite" launch services. They plan to initiate RFPs for the satellite business in early 2010.
SpaceShipTwo flies to a height of 110 km in order to go beyond the defined boundary of space (100 km) and lengthen the experience of weightlessness. The spacecraft reaches around Mach 3 (1000 m/s), which is faster than current fighter jets are capable of attaining; however, the spacecraft is not able to sustain that speed for long periods of time. It has double the crew (2) and can carry triple the passengers (6) of its predecessor. In honour of the science fiction series Star Trek, the first two ships are named after the fictional starships Enterprise and Voyager. To re-enter the atmosphere SpaceShipTwo folds its wings up, and then returns them to their original position for an unpowered descent flight back onto the runway. The craft has a very limited cross-range capability and until other planned spaceports are built worldwide, it has to land in the area where it started. Further "Spaceports" are planned in Dubai and elsewhere, with the intention that the spaceline will have a world-wide availability and commodity in the future.
Sir Richard Branson unveiled the rocket plane on Monday 7 December 2009. SpaceShipTwo was presented to the world in the Mojave desert, in California. The vehicle underwent testing during the following 18 months before being allowed to take ticketed individuals on short-hop trips just above the atmosphere. Sir Richard Branson, who heads the Virgin Group, intends to run the first flights out of New Mexico before extending operations around the globe. Built from lightweight carbon composite materials and powered by a hybrid rocket motor, SS2 is based on the Ansari X PRIZE-winning SpaceShipOne concept - a rocket plane that is lifted initially by a carrier vehicle before blasting skywards. SS1 became the world's first private spaceship with a series of high-altitude flights in 2004.
Its successor, however, is twice as large, measuring 18 m (60 ft) in length. And whereas SpaceShipOne only had a single pilot (and the ballast equivalent of two passengers), SS2 will have a crew of two and room for six passengers. More than 400 individuals are reported to have signed up for a flight as of early 2011. Each is paying $200,000 (£121,000) for the privilege of experiencing approximately six minutes of weightlessness during what will be a two-hour end-to-end flight. Many of those future "astronauts" have attended the VIP unveiling at the Mojave Air and Spaceport. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson christened the spaceliner Virgin SpaceShip (VSS) Enterprise.
The New Mexico authorities are investing almost $200m (£121m) in a purpose-built facility in Upham, Spaceport America. It will have a 3,000m (10,000 ft) runway and a suitably space-age terminal and hangar building designed by Foster and Partners. Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic enterprise will have competitors but he is almost certain to be the first to market, barring any problems arising in the test campaign. SpaceShipTwo's carrier plane is called WhiteKnightTwo. It was finished last year and has already begun its own trials.