Virgin Galactic is on course to pioneer space tourism. After over three years of construction, the Richard Branson owned company has announced a new spaceship. This will be a replacement vessel for one that crashed in 2014 and killed a test pilot. Following the event, held at the company’s Mojave Air & Space Port in California, renowned scientists Sir. Stephen Hawking named the vehicle Unity.
According to Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, the vehicle will make space tourism accessible and possible in a way only dreamed about before.
Not Ready Yet
Due to the 2014 fatal crash, Unity won’t be ready to take wealthy tourists to space anytime soon. The craft faces an extensive testing period. Once it passes these tests, the craft will be used to take passengers 50 miles above the surface of the earth, which essentially will qualify them as space tourists. Already, over 700 people have paid $250,000 up front for a Virgin Galactic seat.
When will flights begin? Most fanatic are grappling with this question, but Virgin Galactic has been short on dates. Understandably, they are working to make sure that this time round the project turns out a success. The company says it has made multiple updates to the craft as compared to the previous one, including a feather inhibitor. The feathers are a key component when the craft is reentering. The 2014 accident resulted from the immature unlocking of the feathers.
Other space tourism companies, such as New Shepard from Jeff Bezos Company (Blue Origin) rely on automation. But Virgin Galactic’s system is dependent on the competence and skills of a pilot. The company apparently choose this approach for its simplicity and inherent safety.
As the company gets the testing stage going, it’ll be interesting what they do to keep up with their mantra, as more competitors form in the space tourism area.