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Virgin Galactic completes its first crewed space flight

by Mark Tyson on 12 July 2021, 10:11

Tags: Virgin (NASDAQ:VMED), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)

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Virgin Galactic completed its first crewed space flight taking off from Spaceport America New Mexico yesterday. Aboard the craft, were six people, including billionaire Sir Richard Branson, two pilots and three Virgin Galactic employees – all of which now have become astronauts*. The time between take-off and return to earth was a little over an hour, and SpaceShipTwo as part of the Unity 22 mission reached a maximum altitude of 53.4 miles.

Branson held a press conference shortly after his pioneering space flight, which he called the "experience of a lifetime". He told press conference attendees that "I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, but honestly nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space," adding that the experience was "magical".

We must not forget that this was a test flight for the space tourism industry, with commercial flights (tickets costing up to $250,000) scheduled to begin next year. Apparently 600 seats have already been pre-booked, and passengers will typically experience 5 minutes of weightless floating around the cabin time, as well as seeing the sky turn black and the Earth's horizon curving away.

Whether 53.4 miles high is space or not is the subject of some debate. NASA reckons space begins at an altitude of 50 miles, but the internationally recognised frontier between Earth atmosphere and space is called the Kármán line and is 62 miles up. On Friday, the Blue Origin space company (owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) Tweeted a jibe at Virgin Galactic's Unity vehicle, suggesting that any astronauts who have been on this flight would need an asterisk next to that qualification, as they hadn't gone beyond the Kármán line. However, following the successful SpaceShipTwo journey, Bezos sent congratulations.

Left: SpaceShipTwo goes vertical after undocking. Right: Amazon's Tweet about the impending Unity 22 mission

Blue Origin looks set to launch soon, going to start flying passengers soon (six at a time) in the New Shepard rocket which takes off vertically, with passengers returning in a parachuting capsule. Elon Musk is preparing a similar space tourism venture, SpaceX. Musk travelled to New Mexico to offer support to Branson yesterday.

If you are interested in a space flight but don't have the funds set aside right now, you can wait for the HEXUS competition in 2077*, or enter the Virgin and Omaze sweepstakes which is offering two seats aboard "one of the first" commercial spaceflights.



HEXUS Forums :: 29 Comments

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calling it space is a bit rich then.

Also there's a * but no clarification footnote, so I'm eagerly waiting the 2077 Hexus comp now. It's as sure a prediction as all those dreamers who said England were “guaranteed” to beat Italy last night.
Space is a weird term for up there with all that debris flying about. Any more satellites going up there will require installation of traffic light systems before long. lol.
ik9000
calling it space is a bit rich then.

Also there's a * but no clarification footnote, so I'm eagerly waiting the 2077 Hexus comp now. It's as sure a prediction as all those dreamers who said England were “guaranteed” to beat Italy last night.

There's no hard line defining space, but the NASA definition does have good justification
https://youtu.be/0b1VgtyIQN0?t=652

TL;DW: Satellites can stay in orbit for a fair amount below 100 km, but not below 80 km. The definition of space is where orbital mechanics dominate keeping things in the sky (instead of aerodynamic lift), so this shows that the average atmosphere (it changes with the weather) runs out about 80 km up - internationally this was rounded to 100 km, but the americans rounded it to 50 mi (~500m off the calculated value)
Is it really space? Kinda a moot point. You get to go vertical in a rocket up to mach 3, float around for 5 minutes and then plunge back down. I think the feather thing is a seriously cool way of solving their design problems.

It's a shame it can't go higher and potentially be used for cargo. But for its intended use (giving rich people a thrill), it's an excellent proposition.

Also looks like an excellent platform for launching missiles for when Beardy goes full evil billionaire… or as a way of getting operation Yewtree to back off.
philehidiot
Is it really space? Kinda a moot point. You get to go vertical in a rocket up to mach 3, float around for 5 minutes and then plunge back down. I think the feather thing is a seriously cool way of solving their design problems.

It's a shame it can't go higher and potentially be used for cargo. But for its intended use (giving rich people a thrill), it's an excellent proposition.

Also looks like an excellent platform for launching missiles for when Beardy goes full evil billionaire… or as a way of getting operation Yewtree to back off.

Can i say that it's intended use is a poor proposition. Rich people flying to the inner edges of space for a quick (but expensive) “cheap” thrill, while polluting the atmosphere with more CO2 and other gases just for the 5 minutes of weightlessness. We should tax this on environmental grounds so much it either prevents it from being viable, or makes mega bucks for the state to redistribute into green energy schemes and the like. Wealth redistribution on a voluntary level. If you're that rich pay 10x more and do some good at the same time.