Virgin Galactic Rocket Plane Plotted For First Commercial Flight to Edge of Space

1 min read

A twin-fuselage jet stood ready on Thursday to carry a Virgin Galactic rocket plane with a three-person crew from Italy into the New Mexico sky for a high-altitude launch of the company’s first flight of paying customers to the edge of space. If the mission goes as planned, it will mark a decisive turning point for billionaire Richard Branson’s astro-tourism venture, which has been plagued by development setbacks and is now competing with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX for customers willing to spend tens of millions of dollars for suborbital flights.

Two Italian air force colonels and an aerospace engineer from the National Research Council of Italy were due to join their Virgin Galactic instructor and the spaceplane’s two pilots on a suborbital ride expected to take the six men about 50 miles, the somewhat arbitrary threshold where aerodynamic forces no longer have any discernible effect. The simulated weightlessness of this altitude is meant to give the passengers a taste of what it will feel like when they eventually reach space, which the company hopes will be later this year.

The test flight was scheduled to depart from a runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico’s high desert near Truth or Consequences. Once the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft reaches an altitude of about 44,000 feet, it will release VSS Unity, which will soar by rocket power in a vertical climb toward the outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, climbing to about 50,000 feet before the spaceship’s engines cut off, at which point the passengers will be weightless for several minutes. The spaceship will then gradually descend back to Earth, landing where it began the flight.

Jamila Gilbert, a native of southern New Mexico who works for Virgin Galactic’s internal communications team and will be among the first paying customers to fly, said it will probably take a lifetime to fully process the sights and feelings she and her fellow passengers experienced during Thursday’s flight. It was “hard to believe that the rocket igniting, the spaceship flying away, the altitude, all of these things were happening at once,” she said.

When a commercial flight is launched, passengers will spend three days training in the desert and undergoing a short de-briefing before their spaceship takes them on a roughly 90-minute trip to the edge of space and then back to Earth again. Branson and Virgin Galactic expect to start flying those paying voyages this summer once the spaceship has passed a series of safety and technical milestones.

The company’s stock ticked up after Thursday’s test flight, but it remains down sharply from a high seen earlier this year, and investors are still wary of the risk of a rocky launch schedule or other setbacks. Despite the recent success, some analysts warn it will be years before Virgin Galactic makes money. Branson has also staked his fortune on the successful launch of his private spaceport in Mojave, California.

NY DAILY INSIDER

Nydailyinsider is a seasoned journalist with over 15 years of experience in the industry. They have written for several high-profile publications, including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Entertainment Weekly. Nydailyinsider has covered a wide range of topics, from celebrity profiles and movie reviews to industry trends and analysis. They are known for their insightful commentary and thoughtful writing style. In addition to their work as a writer, they are also a frequent guest on entertainment news shows and podcasts. They holds a degree in Journalism from New York University and currently resides in Los Angeles with their family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

Harrison Ford Says Goodbye to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Next Story

Student Loan Forgiveness – Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

Latest from NY DAILY INSIDER