The $250,000 ticket price and the extensive tests required are not stopping people and companies alike of dreaming of commercial space flight--and a recent Virgin Galactic flight proves we might actually be closer than you think.
Last Tuesday, the VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic's spaceplane, rose twenty-two miles (roughly 116,000 feet) over the earth in its second, rocket-powered test. It was first carried to an altitude of over 45,000 feet under the wing of an aircraft carrier before using its own rocket to propel to a max speed nearly twice the speed of sound. After reaching a stunning altitude, the pilots were able to descend and land the plane safely on a runway.
The primary aim of this test was to see how the craft would perform with a shifted center of gravity due to additional weight, including the addition of more passenger seats. According to Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson, the test signifies that "we are getting ever closer to realizing our goals," and, in a separate interview, said that commercial space flight is "months away, not years away."
And, what exactly is the goal? For Virgin Galactic, the hope is that vessels like the Unity will take passengers into brief excursions into space, long enough for them to experience weightlessness before descending and landing once more. Hundreds of people have already expressed interest in taking a spaceflight with Virgin, at the ridiculous sticker price of $250,000.
Now, Branson's claim that commercial space travel is a mere months away may seem like an exaggeration--and that may be true, not only for Virgin but for other companies venturing into the field as well. Private aerospace company SpaceX also has plans to bring people into space; as a matter of fact, its planned space tourism program promises to send passengers around the moon and back to Earth.
The problem? It's just been delayed. According to The Wall Street Journal, technical and production challenges have factored into SpaceX's decision to postpone the program until at least 2019. Granted, commercial space flight isn't exactly the company's primary focus, but it still demonstrates that dreams of space travel for all may be put off for a little while for some people. Nonetheless, Virgin's two successful tests of their spaceplane in a row looks to be promising.
At least there's no turbulence once you're in space.
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I'm a sci-fi/fantasy lover & writer who especially likes talking about Star Wars and futuristic tech. I like finding new things & finding the beauty in old things, especially in my "Everyday Snippets" series. I hope you'll join me on my blog and unleash your imagination!