First ‘Commercial’ Spaceship Virgin Atlantic Reaches Space In Test Flights

While one could argue whether space travel is commercial aviation, nobody can argue the subject of this article isn’t cool. For years now, Virgin has been working on a project to make commercial space flight into a real industry. Following a fatal accident which proved a large setback, the company has completed their first space flight with their spaceship. The current Virgin Galactic spaceship, named the VSS Unity, took its first flight in 2016, after a two-year pause in the program.

First ‘Commercial’ Spaceship Virgin Atlantic Reaches Space In Test Flights
VSS Unity lands smoothly after her first space flight. Photo: Virgin Galactic

How Does It Work?

The Virgin Galactic space tourism vehicle is actually made up of two different aircraft. A launch vehicle called WhiteKnightTwo takes off much the same as any other aircraft. The only major difference is that the aircraft has two fuselages. Between the fuselages is a wing carrying the spaceship located between them.

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The VSS Unity attached to the launch vehicle in flight. Photo: Virgin Galactic

The aircraft climbs to a height of around 50,000ft. At this height, the launch vehicle drops the spaceship. After a brief glide, the spaceships rockets are fired up, propelling the vehicle almost straight up into the air for around a minute. In this time the spaceship reaches heights of around 270,000ft (yup, you read that right). Following several minutes in microgravity, the aircraft begins a descent and reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The aircraft then glides, losing altitude before landing again.

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The Virgin Galactic flight profile. Image: Virgin Galactic

How Can I Get Tickets?

Tickets are currently not available from Virgin. This is as all of the current tickets have already been allocated. If you do want to travel to space, however, be prepared to spend lots! The tickets start at US$250,000. So chartering the spaceship for 5 will set you back a sweet $1.25 million. Don’t forget that you will need to likely also purchase travel to and from the United States, however, if you have that amount of money to spend of the space tickets, you could almost certainly afford to travel first class. Further tickets are yet to go on sale, however, there are some well-known names reportedly on the guest list including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

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Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic’s first two astronauts following the successful flight. Photo: Virgin Galactic

Speaking of the achievement, Sir Richard Branson said “Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space. Today we completed our first revenue generating flight and our pilots earned their Commercial Astronaut Wings. Today, we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space to change the world for good.” Branson went on to add “This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.”

Would you travel to space onboard Virgin Galactic? Let us know in the comments down below!