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Virgin Galactic is the company that is part of Richard Branson’s Virgin group of companies including hotels, airlines, and cellular phone service. Virgin Galactic is a company with a focus on private space travel. Its main offering is private trips to space on the SpaceShipTwo a privately designed and funded space craft based on SpaceShipOne a space craft that won the X prized in 2008.
The real story of how things got started begins with the 2008 X prize competition and the SpaceShipOne. The competition for 2008 was build a private space craft that could go beyond the IEF established boundary for space 100 km. The SpaceShipOne by Scaled Composites met this goal with a unique craft design. Instead of the traditional booster rocket system, the SpaceshipOne used a two cockpit carrier jet to carry the space craft on the first leg of its journey. The space craft was released and using its own onboard hybrid rocket launched midair to reach speeds of Mach 3 and leave the Earth’s atmosphere. The design won and was picked by Richard Branson to start a commercial space travel company Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic makes use of a spacecraft and carrier called respectively SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo both craft are based on the technology of their predecessors. The interest in this craft led to the investment and building the Mojave Air and Space ports in California and Spaceport America in New Mexico. The craft would offer six passengers the chance to pass the boundary of space and briefly experience microgravity. The craft would then coast back to Earth via a feathered reentry system.
Despite setbacks such as the death of an engineer during testing of the rocket engine, plans for the first set of scheduled flights has stayed on schedule. However this is one flight that only the affluent can afford. A ticket on the SpaceShipTwo will cost $200,000 per passenger. While this price seems prohibitive it is important to note that if successful this would be the first private space travel company in the world. The only other means of getting to space is with the Russian Space Program which has a ticket cost that is over $1 million dollars. The first flights will start in 2011 and if successful will result in full orbital flights with the development of Spaceship Three.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Launch Facilities. Listen here, Episode 161: Launch Facilities.
Source: Virgin Galactic