Virgin Galactic Launching Its First Manned Flight Into Space From New Mexico This Month
Virgin Galactic has announced plans to launch its first manned test flight into space from New Mexico this month.
After conducting two previous test spaceflights from Mojave, California, the company moved in to its facilities at Spaceport America in New Mexico, where it plans to launch its VSS Unity space plane between November 19 and November 23.
Following the successful test flights, the planned mission will mark Unity’s first trip to space since February 2019, as well as the first flight from Spaceport America.
The spaceport is set to act as a hub for Virgin Galactic’s trips to space, through which passengers will be able to travel beyond Earth. Members of the public will be able to buy tickets for the epic journey, offering ‘everyone the opportunity to become private astronauts and experience the wonder of space for themselves’.
According to Space.com, passengers on the craft will experience the lack of gravity with a few minutes of weightlessness, while also subverting that flat-Earther theory with sights of the curvature of Earth. The craft will then return to Earth for a runway landing.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, commented on the launch in a statement this week, explaining the company had made ‘good progress’ in the last few months.
He said Virgin Galactic moved towards ‘completing the final steps to prepare for VSS Unity’s first rocket powered test flight from Spaceport America this November’, adding, ‘This will be the first-ever human spaceflight conducted from New Mexico.’
During my first three months at the company, I have been continually impressed with the team and the tremendous work that has gone into making the dream of commercial spaceflight a reality.
Unity is the latest SpaceShipTwo space plane, and is designed to be carried into the air beneath a special carrier jet before being released at high altitude, at which point a rocket engine will kick in.
Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, wants to be the first ‘space billionaire’ to travel to space in this capacity, CNN reports.
Branson, who turned 70 this year, is set to take flight in the Virgin Galactic craft in the first quarter of 2021 following more test flights. The company is aiming to get a seal of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration; a recognition that will certify SpaceShipTwo for commercial operation.
Around 600 people have already bought a ticket for Virgin Galactic’s commercial space trip, with some paying as much as $250,000. Colglazier said tickets are set to go on sale again after Branson’s flight next year.
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