Saturday, 2 April 2011


A new era is about to start ... Space travel for everyone!

Virgin Galactic, pioneering commercial sub-orbital space flight. Virgin, 2011.Tickets to experience the wonders of spaceflight are already being reserved.

After the success the international space exploration programme, a number of private companies have recognized the lucrative potential of space travel. Some of them have taken this seriously and are leading the path to a new form of travel soon to become a reality.

One of the pioneering companies is Virgin Group Limited, headed by Sr. Richard Branson, who in 2008 acquired the rights to “Spaceship One,” an award winning spacecraft designed in 2004 by American company Scale Composites, owned by the famous aerospace engineer Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan.

Virgin’s new improved version of the aircraft is currently being constructed by Scaled Composites at their headquarters in the Mojave desert, north of Los Angeles. They are working on the production of 2 carrier planes and 5 spacecraft.

The Virgin Galactic Spaceship is made of carbon composite, a light, compact and strong modern material. It is capable of carrying 6 passengers and a crew of 2 pilots. It has a rocket engine that will give it the last push into space after being released from its mothership at an altitude of 15.5 km.

Stages of Sub-Orbital spaceflight: Mothership deployment at 15km, Powerflight to space, Float at 110 km, Re-entry and glide to SpacePort. Virgin 2011. The prediction of a space flight experience is as follows:

  • Flights depart from Spaceport America in the Mojave desert, New Mexico, a purpose-built installation designed by Norman Foster.
  • Motherships like the “VSS-Enterprise,” carry a spacecraft under its central bridge and take the spacecraft up to an altitude of over 15 km and to a speed of Mach 4, at which point they separate and the small vehicle goes into Powerflight.
  • In every flight the passengers spend 5 minutes experiencing weightlessness in space at an altitude of 110 km, after which the spaceship re-enters our atmosphere at relatively low speeds to avoid high temperatures produced by friction.
  • Slowing down at re-entry is the goal of the new design of the spacecraft’s wings. They fold upwards to maximise drag and together with the low weight of the vehicle, reduce the speed of flight to the extent of not requiring a heat shield.
  • On its return home, the spacecraft glides back to the Mojave Spaceport, landing like a regular plane in one of the runways.

With 400 reservations on their list, each paying initially 10% of the ticket price of US$200,000; Virgin Galactic has secured part of the capital to start the business. Their projections of having up to 3 flights a day, each carrying 6 passengers will give you an idea of the scale of sales they expect to have.


After successful test flights of the carrier plane and the spacecraft, the company is waiting for the completion of the development of the rocket engine to test the final ascent into space.

Spaceship test-pilot Peter Siebold recognises that Sub-orbital space flight is likely to be the stepping stone to Orbital space flight.

Their aim is to start sub-orbital flights as early as 2013.

Richard Branson talks to CNN about the first landing of the spacecraft in June 2011

Virgin Galactic, test flight. Virgin, 17june 2011.


¤ Amos, J. (2010). ‘Virgin Galactic's spaceship makes solo flight.’ BBC. [Online]. Available here. (Accessed: 31 March 2011). ¤ ‘Burt Rutan’ (2010). Wikipedia. [Online]. Available here. (Accessed: 01 April 2011). ¤ Fire, L. (2008). ‘Richard Branson Unveils Space Tourism Craft Today.’ The Fire Wire. [Online]. Available here. (Accessed: 31 March 2011). ¤ Scott, R. (2011). ‘Space tourism closer as Virgin Galactic nears lift off.’ BBC. [Online]. Available here. (Accessed: 31 March 2011). ¤ Virgin Airlines (2011). Virgin Airlines. [Online]. Available here. (Accessed: 01 April 2011). ¤ ‘Virgin Galactic Greenlighted by US’ (2011). Super Luminous Velocity. [Online]. Available here. (Accessed: 01 April 2011).


¤ All images edited by ren@rt. Source: BBC and Virgin.

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