Commercial Space Flights to Launch in Late June
After years of testing, American private space company Virgin Galactic, founded by Sir Richard Branson, has announced the start of the era of space tourism, as reported by BBC.
The first launch of Galactic 01, scheduled between June 27th and 30th, will not be purely commercial. The VSS Unity spacecraft will carry out a scientific research mission to the edge of Earth's orbit with a team of three Italian Air Force specialists who will conduct experiments in microgravity.
If the mission is successful, the next suborbital flight for Virgin Galactic, Galactic 02, is planned for August 2023. Subsequently, suborbital flights will take place once a month from the New Mexico spaceport.
The first two flights, which are undoubtedly a historic milestone in the commercial exploitation of near-Earth orbit, will be livestreamed on the Virgin Galactic company website.
But that's not all. Virgin's CEO, who suffered losses of around £1.9 billion during the pandemic and quarantine restrictions, plans to establish a fleet of new "Delta-class" spacecraft by 2026. This will enable suborbital flights to take place every week.
Following the announcement of commercial space travel, Virgin Galactic's stocks surged by 55%.
Virgin Galactic has already sold over 800 tickets to affluent tourists who wish to reach an altitude of over 80 km (260,000 feet) above Earth. The total value of these deals amounts to $208 million, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The cost of a single passenger's flight currently stands at $450,000, but with increased flight frequency, ticket availability will improve, potentially leading to a decrease in prices.
Sir Richard Branson's suborbital spaceflight system consists of two components: the carrier aircraft VMS Eve and the six-seater reusable spacecraft SpaceShipTwo, operated by two pilots. VMS Eve will take off from the runway with SpaceShipTwo attached beneath its wings, after which the spacecraft will separate from the carrier at an altitude of 15 km and proceed on an independent flight. Passengers on board will experience several minutes of nearly weightlessness and marvel at the incredible view of planet Earth floating in the darkness of space.