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Virgin Galactic embarks on first commercial space flight: An epoch-defining voyage above the New Mexico desert

virgin galactic

Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2023. 6:50 am CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: Aljazeera reports that Virgin Galactic, the space travel company founded by the British tycoon, Richard Branson, in 2004, is about to set another milestone in human space exploration as it prepares to launch its first commercial flight to the edge of space. This ambitious journey symbolizes a significant leap for the future of space tourism.

The company’s spacecraft, the VSS Unity, is scheduled for takeoff this Thursday, with two Italian air force officers, an aerospace engineer from the National Research Council of Italy, a Virgin Galactic instructor, and two pilots on board. These select passengers are set to enjoy an exhilarating 90-minute suborbital ride, about 80km (50 miles) above the New Mexico desert.

The space flight system of Virgin Galactic is a unique blend of aeronautics and astronautics. It employs a “mothership” aircraft with two pilots, which gains high altitude from a runway before releasing the rocket-powered VSS Unity. This spacecraft then shoots into space at nearly Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) before gliding back to Earth.

Aljazeera adds that those aboard the VSS Unity’s cabin are set to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and a captivating view of Earth’s curvature. The flight is planned to be live-streamed from 15:00 GMT on Virgin Galactic’s website, inviting the global audience to partake in this historic event virtually.

Virgin Galactic’s commercial space venture has not been short of interest. Approximately 800 tickets have already been sold, with movie stars and other celebrities among the first to secure their places. However, the program suffered a setback in 2014 when a spaceplane broke apart midair during a test flight, resulting in the death of a co-pilot and serious injury to the pilot.

Despite past hurdles, Virgin Galactic is charging forward with plans to normalize commercial space travel. The company’s next scheduled commercial space flight – Galactic 02 – is planned for August. Following this, it aims to roll out monthly flights to space. Virgin Galactic is in direct competition with American billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company, Blue Origin, in the suborbital space tourism sector. Blue Origin has sent 32 people into space but is currently grounded due to an accident during an unmanned flight in September 2022.

Interestingly, the news of this launch comes just after Branson’s Virgin Orbit ceased operations following a mission failure in the United Kingdom. The failed mission involved the unsuccessful launch of the LauncherOne rocket, which had carried US and UK intelligence satellites. Despite the setback, Virgin Galactic’s upcoming journey promises to pioneer the future of space tourism.

 

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