Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline company - but when will its first spaceflight be and how much will it cost to travel to space?
Commercial spaceline Virgin Galactic is funded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, its aim is to send incredibly rich tourists into space within the next few years.
Founded in 2004, the team includes rocket scientists, engineers and designers from around the world.
What can Virgin Galactic passengers expect?
Virgin Galactic passengers will depart from Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. It was opened in New Mexico in 2011.
WhiteKnightTwo, a jet-powered cargo aircraft, will climb to an altitude of 50,000 feet before releasing SpaceShipTwo, a spacecraft that will bring passengers on the final part of the journey.
SpaceShipTwo will travel at approximately three and a half times the speed of sound, propelling the vehicle and passengers to space.
“After the rocket motor has fired for around a minute, the pilots will safely shut it down,” Virgin Galactic say.
“Having just experienced a thrilling, dynamic rocket ride, the dramatic transition to silence and to true weightlessness will be a profound moment for our astronauts as they coast upwards towards space.”
The amateur astronauts will then leave their seats to experience weightlessness.
The whole experience is expected to last two hours. The spacecraft is expected to carry six passengers and two pilots.
Once SpaceShip Two has reentered the earth’s atmosphere, the vehicle’s wings will be returned to their normal configuration, and the spaceship will glide back to the original runway.
How high will Virgin Galactic go?
Virgin Galactic will carry passengers to an altitude of 110km (68 miles) to the edge of space. That’s over the Karman line (an altitude of 100km), which represents the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
When will the first commercial spaceflight be?
Branson initially hoped that Virgin Galactic would carry tourists into space by 2011, but now refuses to give a definitive launch date.
“Well we stopped giving dates,” he told The Telegraph in April.
“But I think I’d be very disappointed if we’re not into space with a test flight by the end of the year and I’m not into space myself next year and the programme isn’t well underway by the end of next year.”
A crash in 2014 CREDIT: REUTERS Three workers died in an explosion during testing of SpaceShipTwo in 2007.
In 2014, a Virgin Galactic spaceship exploded in mid-air, killing a test pilot and seriously injuring another.
Co-pilot Michael Alsbury died after inadvertently unlocking the spaceship’s braking mechanism 14 seconds too early during a test flight causing catastrophic structural failure, US safety investigators ruled. Test flights of SpaceShipTwo resumed in 2016.
How much will it cost to travel to space?
A lot, at least initially. A seat on a Virgin Galactic flight will cost you $250,000, which has to be paid up-front as a deposit.
More than 700 people have signed up so far, including celebrities Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks and Paris Hilton, reports say.
By Mark Molloy - 19 JULY 2017 • 5:40PM