Virgin Galactic is a company in the Virgin Group of billionaire Richard Branson. This company has a goal of selling sub-orbital flights to the public.
Virgin Galactic plans to send into orbit 500 passengers per year at a cost of U.S. $ 200 000 each, at an altitude of 100 km with a total of 3 to 4 minutes in weightlessness.
To date, only about 500 astronauts took off from Earth. Currently, only the Russian Federal Space Agency is sending tourists into space at a cost of 20 million U.S. dollars U.S. to stay for a period of 10 days.
During the course of the Ansari X-Prize, Virgin Galactic signed an agreement worth $21 million with U.S. Mojave Aerospace Ventures in order to finance the development of space tourism. The agreement was announced by Branson and Burt Rutan September 27, 2004 at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.
The plan includes construction of 5 spacecraft based on SpaceShipOne construction began in 2005 with forecasts to make tens or hundreds of tests in 2007.
The vehicle will have 6 spaces plus 2 pilots. The total travel time is 3 hours including 3 to 4 minutes in weightlessness. The company plans to allow passengers to come off their seats and float in the cabin to enjoy the experience.
The first aircraft has a much larger scale, one wing is 42 meters long, while carbon composites support both sides of two cabins and makes use of two Pratt and Whitney engines. This “global flyer’ with the wingspan of a Boeing 757, and will take 16 passengers plus a rocket plane and its 8 passengers (2 pilots and 6 passengers). The rocket plane resembles a space shuttle, but NASA’s is smaller and much lighter.
For now both units are under construction, no information is available about the automation of Spaceship2, its final weight, type of fuel. We learn, however, that the engine will be a “hybrid” that is to say working with a mixture liquid and solid, “any liquid” is more unstable.
The general public can reserve a seat on the aircraft which are planned to fly every two to four days from several commercial spaceports worldwide. More than 200 test flights are scheduled.
The shuttle SpaceShipTwo is now named Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Enterprise when was introduced in December 2009 and made its maiden test flight March 22, 2010, suspended from its mothership, White Knight (two jets joined by a wing).
Branson suggested that the initial price of tickets to U.S. $ 200 000 for the first sub-orbital flights, including two days of training, then $ 30 000 for following flights. The company estimates the potential market between 7000 and 15,000 customers over a period from 2011 to 2013. In addition, they estimate that only 5,000 customers would be enough to make the enterprise profitable.