Virgin Galactic is a company that
offers sub-orbital space flights for
space science missions. It
markets WhiteKnightTwo for small satellite orbital launches.
Virgin Galactic will own and operate its privately built spaceships.
About Virgin Galactic
The flights will
climb to about 130km, roughly 10 times higher than regular
commercial planes and include four minutes of weightlessness, views
of the horizon 1,200 miles away and possibly a gin and tonic, if
granted a liquor license.
Virgin Galactic plans to fly 500 passengers a year at about
US$200,000 each, to an altitude of over 100 km, with a total
weightless time of 7 minutes.
Sir Richard Branson said
he planned to take the inaugural flight on the VSS Enterprise.
Only about 500 people have been off the planet and gained their
astronaut wings since spaceflight began in the 1960s and even fewer
have orbited the Earth. Current commercial flights to space,
provided by the Russian Space Agency, cost roughly US$20 million for
a six-day orbital flight.
Virgin Galactic plans to have a five
SpaceShipTwo tourist suborbital vehicles and two White Knight
1. VSS Enterprise
2. VSS Voyager
3. No Name Yet
4. No Name Yet
5. No Name Yet
WhiteKnightTwo MotherShips (carrier aircraft)
1. VMS Eve
2. VMS Spirit of Steve Fossett
Richard Branson will be taking his adult children Sam and Holly
on the first space flight which is scheduled for 2013.
Branson has suggested an initial ticket price of US$200,000 for a
suborbital tourist flight, including a week of flight training.
Profits from early flights would
be reinvested to make space tourism more affordable.
Among those reported to have told Branson that they wished to be
among the first to fly on the spacecraft are Jane's Addiction
guitarist Dave Navarro, Alien star Sigourney Weaver, Hollywood
director Bryan Singer, Musician Moby, and Paris Hilton. Richard
Branson himself, as well as a select few of his close family members
will blast off on the first commercial flight of the VSS Enterprise
plans to offer sub-orbital space flights by 2013, with
fares expected to cost 162,000 Euros (2004) per seat.
On December 13, 2005, Branson announced that Virgin Galactic would
undertake a joint venture with the New Mexico state government to
construct Spaceport America, a $225 million facility to be located
near Upham, New Mexico. The venture was approved by the state
legislature and the funding plans signed into law by governor Bill
Richardson on March 1, 2006. Virgin Galactic will be the first
customer to operate manned spacecraft from this facility.
The current and only spaceport is at Mojave, California. Flights
internationally land at John Wayne International Airport (Orange
County Airport) at Santa Ana/Irvine, CA and are taken to Mojave.
Virgin announced is also considering launches from Scotland and northern
Sweden from Kiruna, the latter being particularly suitable for
in-flight views of the aurora borealis. Branson has also said that
Cape Canaveral's Kennedy Space Center could serve as an East Coast
Virgin Galactic is an offshoot of Sir Richard Bransonís business
Virgin first formed the company and registered
their trademark in space tourism back in the mid 1990's. We were
looking at a number of projects then underway to further the concept
of space tourism, however we rejected all of them.
Virgin Group licensed technology owned by Paul Allenís company,
called Mojave Aerospace Ventures, which developed the worldís first
private manned spaceship,
SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne became the
first private manned spaceship in June 2004 when pilot Mike Melvill
took it up 100km and won the $10m Ansari X Prize. This major milestone
achievement paved the way for Virgin Galactic to launch sub-orbital
space tourism business.
The first pair of Virgin Galactic astronaut wings were awarded today
by Alex Tai of Virgin Galactic to Mike Melvill after he returned
from 330,000 feet having just successfully completed the first of
two Ansari X-Prize qualifying flights.
Richard Branson and Burt Rutan announced to the world's media on
September 27 2004 at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London that Virgin Galactic was now in a position to commence
a programme of work that would result in the world's first
affordable space tourist flights in 2 to 3 years time. The initial plan
was for Rutan to design and build five suborbital tourist craft based
on a scaled-up version of SpaceShipOne. Construction began in 2005.
A new astronaut was created today and at the same time he created
Brian Binnie piloted Paul Allen's SpaceShipOne on its third trip
into space and its second Ansari X Prize qualifying flight. The
flight was successful, which meant that Mojave Aerospace Ventures
were able to claim the $10m prize. Something that many thought an
impossible dream when the competition was announced 8 years earlier.
September 28, 2006
The full-size model of the interior of SpaceShipTwo was revealed
during a technology show in New York on September 28, 2006. The
spaceship will hold six passengers and two pilots. The mock-up
featured a spacious cabin with reclining seats and large portholes.
Virgin Galactic added an e-commerce platform to its Web site to
coincide with the unveiling of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle at Wired
Magazineís NextFest at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on
October 2nd, 2006.
At the Farnborough Air Show (July
2012), Branson announced that he and his son Sam and daughter Holly
hope to make the trip on the SpaceShipTwo by the end of 2013.
Virgin Galactic also announced new launch vehicle called
LauncherOne. The company will partner with Planetary Resources in
the small satellite market. LauncherOne is expected to begin
operations in 2016 and can carry up to 227 kilos (500 pounds) of
Future Plans - Space Hotel
has plans for orbital space tourism and proposes putting a hotel in
space. It is expected that some of the future spacecraft will be
able to dock with a space hotel.
There are numerous other companies actively working on commercial
passenger suborbital spaceflight (see: Private spaceflight). Virgin
Galactic's most likely competitors include Rocketplane Kistler,
Space Adventures, Excalibur Almaz and Benson Space Company.
Did you know?
In the 2006 movie Superman Returns, during the maiden flight of a
new fictional commercial Space Shuttle the Virgin Galactic brand can
be seen in the inflight presentation. One of the shuttle pilots is
portrayed by Sir Richard Branson himself. The movie's director,
Bryan Singer, is amongst those reported to want to fly on the real
Virgin Galactic maiden flight.
* Virgin has a long history of working with Burt
Rutan, including a round the world balloon flight in the 1990's and
Steve Fossett's Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer.
* Who is Richard
is a famous Entrepreneur whose business empire ranges from planes
(Virgin Atlantic) and trains (tilting Virgin Pendolino trains) to
vodka, music and personal finance to
zero-gravity flights. His business empire started in
mail-order recorded music in the 1970ís.
Any comments on the Virgin Galactic,