Virgin Galactic will offer suborbital rides if the SpaceShipTwo spaceliner is approved after tests. Virgin Galactic will be the first program that will allow private tourists to take a scenic trip to see the darkness of space. The first full-crewed flight proved successful on July 15, with more tests to follow, there is a confident possibility for the first commercial tour to be this fall. MSNBC reports:
A private spaceship built to launch space tourists on suborbital joyrides could by flying on its own by this fall, Space.com has learned.
The SpaceShiftTwo spacecraft VSS Enterprise, which the space tourism company Virgin Galactic has been flying on test flights attached to a huge mothership, could make its first drop flights over California’s Mojave Desert for glide and landing tests.
“There’s a reasonable possibility that we could see the first drop flight in the fall, but as always, everything is predicated on thoroughness and safety,” Virgin Galactic’s commercial director Stephen Attenborough told Space.com in an e-mail. “No corners will be cut in order to achieve arbitrary deadlines.”
Founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is developing a fleet of SpaceShipTwo spaceliners to launch paying thrillseekers on suborbital hops into space.
SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry eight people (six passengers and two pilots) on suborbital flights that would reach outer space for a few minutes before returning back to Earth. The spacecraft is designed to drop from a mothership, called WhiteKnightTwo, from an altitude above 50,000 feet and fire a hybrid rocket motor to launch into suborbital space.
At $200,000 a ticket, paying passengers on SpaceShipTwo will experience weightlessness and glimpse the darkness of space and the view of Earth below. SpaceShipTwo is one of several private spaceships under development for space tourism or other commercial uses.
The upcoming drop test will follow a series of test flights with SpaceShipTwo safely attached to its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, the most recent of which occurred last week. That test flight marked the first crewed SpaceShipTwo flight.