THE sky is no longer the limit for a host of entrepreneurs who are vying to offer the first tourist trip into space.
With Virgin Galactic’s flight to space set to take place on July 11, 2021, commercial space flights are closer than ever- here’s what we know about the spaceflight company.
In Virgin Galactic’s plans, travellers will pay $250,000 (£175,000) for the flight into the Earth’s atmosphere[/caption]
What is Virgin Galactic?
Intrepid explorers are lining up – and digging deep – to travel into space with Virgin Galactic.
British billionaire Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, initially predicted the maiden space flight would launch by 2009.
But the date has been repeatedly pushed back after technical problems.
If all goes to plan, space fans will be launched more than 50 miles above Earth – a point at which Nasa define travellers as astronauts.
Passengers will ride aboard SpaceShipTwo, a spaceplane designed to carry six passengers and two pilots.
It is carried aloft by a large aeroplane before breaking away and zooming to an altitude of about 62 miles.
In 2016, the late Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo craft, called VSS Unity, after the first SpaceShipTwo craft VSS Enterprise crashed during tests in 2014.
Virgin Galactic is up against fierce competition in the private space race from firms such as Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
In July 1, 2021, the company announced its fourth test spaceflight which will also be the first mission with a full crew of six onboard.
Who owns Virgin Galactic?
Sir Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Galactic.
The British billionaire, 70, is a self-made businessman who launched his company Virgin almost 50 years ago.
He was born in Blackheath, London, in 1950 and started his first venture, Virgin Records, in 1972, which he later sold to EMI in 1992 for £500million.
The dad-of-two has started up some very lucrative companies along the way, including Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984 and Virgin Trains in 1993.
He launched Virgin Galactic in 2004, with the hope of offering future trips to space.
Sir Richard has also created Virgin Media, Virgin Racing and Virgin Comics.
In 2007, he was placed in the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list.
How much is Virgin Galactic worth?
The space tourism company’s net worth is currently estimated at £2.9 billion ($4 billion).
Meanwhile, in July 2021, Forbes listed Branson’s net worth at £4.1 billion ($5.7 billion).
How much will it cost to fly into space?
With a hefty price tag of $250,000 (£175,000) a ticket, the 90-minute flight is being aimed at wealthy celebrities and thrillseekers, as well as researchers.
Branson has said that “ultimately” he would like to see the price fall as low as $40,000 (£30,700) over the next decade.
And there’s already a deluge of 700 celebrities and scientists desperate to get a chance to board the spacecraft – including Hollywood A-listers Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio.
When did Richard Branson’s spaceship first launch?
After years of fine-tuning, Branson successfully reached space for the first time on December 13, 2018.
SpaceShipTwo’s Unity plane flew higher than ever before in a test that marked a huge step toward Sir Richard’s goal of firing paying customers into space this year.
The flight, launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 3.15pm GMT, soared to an altitude of 50 miles above Earth’s surface strapped to a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo.
It successfully separated from its mother ship around 45 minutes after liftoff and engaged its rocket thrusters, reaching speeds of Mach 2.9.
MORE ON SPACE AND ASTRONOMY
SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor burnt for 60 seconds before shutting off, carrying the spaceplane to a top altitude of 51.4 miles, according to Virgin Galactic.
The feat marked the first time the company had reached the boundary of space as defined by the US Air Force and other US agencies.
Virgin Galactic launches:
- 2018: On December 13, Branson successfully reached space for the first time, reaching a height of 51.4 miles above the Earth
- 2019: On February 22, Virgin Galactic reached space for the second time in ten weeks with three people on board, reaching three times the speed of light on the way up
- 2021:On May 22, VSS marked the first-ever manned space flight from New Mexico
- 2021: On July 11, the first flight with a full crew of six onboard will take place.
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