Virgin Galactic Prepares to Launch SpaceShipTwo

Richard Branson has announced that Virgin is soon set to launch the latest version of its SpaceShipTwo, the result of 700 engineers working “day and night,” Branson told UK TV show Good Morning Britain (via Wired).

The last iteration of SpaceShipTwo fell victim to an unfortunate explosion 18 months ago, which killed its pilot. The accident, which occurred in October 2014 at 45,000ft above the Mojave Desert, California, took the life of test pilot Mike Alsbury and seriously injured co-pilot Peter Siebold. “We’re nearly back on track and hopefully it’ll be seen as an historic day in the years to come,” Branson said.

SpaceShipTwo marks a renewed attempt by Virgin Galactic to conduct commercial flights into space. A seat on the orbital spacecraft is estimated to cost around $250,000.

“It’s not that dissimilar to when airline travel started in the 1920s. Initially, people were paying the equivalent of the kind of prices people are paying on Virgin Galactic. Over the years the prices come down dramatically,” Branson told ABC News.

Virgin Galactic has not yet revealed when it intends to make its first commercial spaceflight, though Branson references a decade-long strategy. “I’m not being drawn on specific dates, I’ve made that mistake before,” Branson added during Good Morning Britain. “Today is the unveiling, the test program then starts over the next 12 months and we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully we’re near the end of a ten-year program to get us this far.”

Britain Approves Europe’s First Spaceport

The British government has approved plans to build Europe’s first spaceport within the United Kingdom by 2018. The port is set to offer commercial space travel and high-speed international flights. Westminster agreed to the proposal after a three-month consultation period, during which time a shortlist of potential locations was drawn up. The list includes Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay, and Llanbedr.

The proposal was first submitted in July last year, after the British Civil Aviation Authority put forward eight prospective sites for construction. Robert Goodwill, the UK’s Aviation Minster, said, “I want Britain to lead the way in commercial spaceflight. Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology.”

It is hoped that the port will also push innovation in super-speed flights, with the company behind construction suggesting that long-haul international flights like UK to Australia could be reduced from 12 hours to only 2. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are the two most likely candidates to operate flights out of the new spaceport.

Source: The Verge

Breaking News: One Dead after Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Crash!

Reports are flooding in that at least one person is dead, and another is reported as injured after the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crashed in the California desert earlier today. The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo was taking part in a manned test flight, when it was hit with “a serious anomaly”.

The craft is currently in a test phase before beginning tourist flights to the edge of space. It does this by launching attached to a jet, where it is then launched into a sub-orbit above the earth. This gives passengers a journey that takes them to a zero gravity environment and is pegged as the future of space tourism by Virgin Galactic.

In a statement, Virgin Galactic said the “vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo”

The co-pilot was killed in the crash, while the pilot managed to eject, but was seriously injured in the process. Photographer Ken Brown reports that he saw the craft explode shortly after it was released from the plane that carried it to a higher altitude. The aircraft, known as White Knight 2 landed safely shortly afterwards.

Around 200 people have already paid £125,000 for a place on SpaceShipTwo flights, it is unclear what effect this will have on Virgin Galactic’s plans for tourist flights. Hopefully Virgin Galactic will have a statement about what happened.

Our thoughts go out to the families of those involved in the crash.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of BBC.

NASA Awards Suborbital Contracts to Virgin Galactic and Three More

NASA has announce the four companies it awarded their suborbital payload contracts to in an announcement on Monday. The companies all got the same contract that gives “indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity for integration and flight services” over a three-year period. Each contract is worth a minimum of $100.000 and can be extended with a 2-year option.

They will fly technology payloads on the commercial suborbital reusable platforms and carry payloads up till ‘near the boundary of space’. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere.

The four companies are Virgin Galactic, which is best known for developing its space tourism program with the SpaceShipTwo craft. The company is also actively working to offer the use of their vehicle for scientific research. The company is also developing LauncherOne, which will aim to deliver small satellites into orbit. The next on the list is Masten Space Systems  which is working to develop vertical take-off, vertical landing unmanned spacecraft’s. The company is mostly known for winning the $1 million Lunar Lander X-Prize in 2009.

UP Aerospace is the third company with a focus on developing suborbital rockets to deliver research payloads, and already launched a rocket for NASA last year. The fourth and last company is Paragon Space Development Corporation and their approach is a little bit different as they mainly make equipment for others. They have teamed up with with World View Experience to use balloons to take commercial passengers to the “edge of space”, about 120,000 feet above the earth’s surface.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in working toward the goal of regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These proven flight service providers will allow for payloads from organizations including NASA, industry, academia, and other government agencies to be tested on flights to the edge of space before being committed to demonstration in the harsh environment of space itself.”

Thank you NASA for providing us with these information

Image courtesy of VirginGalactic.

The UK Plans to Build its First Spaceport by 2018

The United Kingdom is said to have planned its first spaceport to be built and be up-and-running by 2018, while Virgin Galactic is preparing to become the first company launching space-tourism flights from within the country.

The British government is said to have planned an official announcement this Tuesday, where it will go into detail regarding the eight possible locations for the spaceport. The Guardian states that amongst the rumored locations include the north of Scotland, Norfolk, Bristol and Outer Hebrides.

“We have worked out the regulatory regime we need to launch spaceships in Britain and assessed what kind of aviation checks will have to be imposed when we put craft into space,” UK science minister David Willetts tells the Guardian. “In the wake of that work we have now created a shortlist of locations for the first British spaceport.”

The news does not come as a surprise, since the United Kingdom’s space sector is now worth over £11 billion / $18,8 billion, having the government aiming at raising it to around £40 billion by the end of 2030. In terms of flights, it is said that both commercial satellites and manned mission will be able to launch from the spaceport, with companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace already lining up as potential users.

Commercial space tourism is said to have been rapidly growing, having the UK jumping in at a key moment. Virgin Galactic is stated to have planned its first flight later this year, taking off from a base in New Mexico. In addition to the company’s flight schedule, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, is reported to have already identified at least one location in the UK suitable for launching space flights in the near future.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Fox News

Forget Virgin Galactic, Take A Balloon To Space

World View Enterprises of Tucson, Arizona has claimed their balloon tests have be successfully completed, in what could be come the first high-altitude balloon capsule being developed for tourists to travel around 20 miles above the Earth’s surface. The first tests have given the company the world record for the highest parafoil flight, lifting their payload to a staggering 120,000 feet. The system used is similar to the one used by Felix Baumgartner to make his record breaking sky dive back in 2012.

The last test was the first to test all the components of the system together, but only used a balloon one third of the size of the passenger model they intend to develop. The flights are not as high as Virgin Galactic, which can reach some 60+ miles, taking you into actual space, but at 20 miles up your still going to get a great view of the curve of the earth and the black of space that will be unlike anything else before it, unless of course you were on Galactic the week before.

The big advantage to World View is that their ticket price is a much more affordable $75,000 per person, almost £200k cheaper than a ticket on the Galactic flights. Flights on the balloon will also be a much more relaxed affair, taking a few hours to descend from the maximum height and featuring a capsule that passengers can walk around in.

Thank you Guardian for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TMCnet.


Virgin Galactic To Start Accepting Bitcoin For Space Flights

Richard Branson has given his approval for the crypto-currency, BitCoin. The digital currency is becoming more and more main stream by the day and it is possible to pay for all kinds of worldly goods that now range from a tummy tuck to a trip to space! So long as you have enough of them of course.

“All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right, and this is one more way to be forward-thinking,” Branson said, in a blogpost for the company. And not only that, but a female flight attendant from Hawaii actually purchased a Virgin Galactic ticket using BitCoin on Friday! She picked a good time too, because the value of BitCoin is pretty high right now.

With flights costing a hefty $250,000 per person, Virgin Galactic isn’t exactly cheap and having more options to pay could never hurt. The value of Bitcoin will be worked out at time of purchase from USD to make sure everyone pays a fair price.

“I have invested in some BitCoins myself and find it fascinating how a whole new global currency has been created,” Branson said. “For people who can afford to invest a little in BitCoins, it’s worth looking into.”

It nice to see more official and positive things come out about BitCoin, a currency format that has a dark shadow over it from being a popular choice for criminals.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of The Guardian.