Saturday, July 17, 2010

Space Tourism and Virgin Galactic: Another Step

"Virgin Galactic's Private Spaceship Makes First Crewed Flight" (July 16, 2010)

"A private suborbital spaceship built for the space tourism firm Virgin Galactic made its first flight with a crew onboard Thursday as it soared over California's Mojave Desert beneath its enormous mothership.

"The commercial spaceliner – called VSS Enterprise, one of the company's fleet of SpaceShipTwo spacecraft – did not try to reach space in the test flight. Instead, it stayed firmly attached to its WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve mothership.

"The two crewmembers riding onboard VSS Enterprise evaluated all of the spacecraft's systems and functions during the 6-hour, 12-minute flight, Virgin Galactic officials said in a statement. In addition, automated sensors and ground crews conducted thorough vehicle systems tests.

"Virgin Galactic was founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. The SpaceShipTwo spacecraft and their WhiteKnightTwo motherships are built for Virgin Galactic by Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites, which was founded by veteran aerospace designer Burt Rutan...."

With the cost of a ticket at $200,000, I'm not likely to fly in one of the Virgin Galactic spaceliners: but I'm glad to see that they're getting closer to commercial use. The Lemming remembers Sputnik, the Mercury Program, and the first moon landing. The suborbital VSS Enterprise is closer to the X-15, in terms of its flight capabilities, though.

We're still probably quite a few years away from orbiting resort hotels - and industrial satellites. But the sort of research and development being done by Virgin Galactic is bringing 'that Buck Rogers stuff' closer to reality.

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