Virgin Galactic is a new Virgin company whose aim is to commercialize suborbital flights. This is, selling space tickets to civilians for $250,000. Even if the idea could seem quite innovative and original, Virgin is not the unique company which is working in this kind of project: Airbus Defence & Space, Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin and XCOR Aerospace are also planning to offer suborbital passenger flights.
Virgin is planning to do so with a mother ship called White Knight Two, a two cabin aircraft that carries the spaceship between them into the air. Once the aircraft has taken off and is flying the spacecraft is released from the mother ship and began its flight towards the end of the atmosphere.
Virgin Galagtic’s SpaceShipTwo (Credit: MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory)
However, last October 31st the second Virgin Galactic spaceship, SpaceShipTwo, crashed in Mojave’s desert, California, during a test flight, causing the death of one of the pilots and injuring the other. The causes are still being studied by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) but there are no indications of failure from the engine or the fuel. Although the spaceship was broken into pieces during the crash, the White Knight Two was not damaged. Apparently, it seems like Virgin Galactic will have to postpone their first commercial flight a bit more. For more information you can listen to the complete report of the crash in this video:
Another company selling space trips is Space Adventures, Ltd. They have actually already achieved Virgin Galactic’s goal: send civilians into space. Indeed, among its trip options, Space Adventures offers visiting the International Space Station (ISS) or going for a space walk. According to their webpage Sarah Brightman will be the next civilian to visit the ISS in 2015.
Despite all the difficulties and dangers presented in space, each day we are getting closer and closer to make the space a place reachable for everyone.
SpaceShip Two Explanations on How Stuff Works