Richard Branson today set out the roadmap for Virgin Galactic's immediate future by announcing that he will be taking his children along for the ride when the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) makes its inaugural flight next year (should all go to plan). As expected
, Branson also confirmed plans for a commercial service to put satellites in orbit at a tenth of today's costs, marking the resumption of Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne program.
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo left terra firma for her 24th glide flight on Wednesday morning. The flight was the first in which the loading and venting of the ship's nitrous system was tested. Virgin Galactic described the flight as "another key milestone on the way to our first powered flight."
After returning to the air earlier this year following a nearly nine-month long break which saw the integration of rocket motor systems
, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo completed its 23rd guide flight this week. The significance of this flight is that it was the spaceplane’s first glide in powered flight configuration.
Virgin Galactic’s suborbital, air-launched spaceplane, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), aka VSS Enterprise, is back in the air after a break of nearly nine months following a recent integration period for rocket motor systems and maintenance. The June 26 flight coincided with another successful full duration test fire of the spaceship’s engine RocketMotorTwo (RM2) on the same day. The tests mark an intensification of activity that sees Virgin Galactic aiming for powered flights by the end of the year.
SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace (BA) have joined forces in an attempt to woo international customers looking to enjoy some extended periods of microgravity. The joint marketing effort will push trips to orbiting Bigelow habitats on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft
using the Falcon
We’ve covered numerous projects seeking funding through Kickstarter but none as ambitious as the project from Phoenix, Arizona-based STAR (Space Transport and Recovery) Systems. Rather than looking to get yet another iPhone case
off the ground, the STAR team is seeking funds to aid in development of its Hermes spacecraft that would compete against the likes of Virgin Galactic
and Space Adventures
in carrying private passengers and payloads into space.
The Dream Chaser, a reusable space plane currently under development by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), is to undergo high altitude drop tests in 2012 following a 25.6 million US dollar boost from NASA to top-off the 80 million US dollar contract
awarded earlier this year. But it won't be chasing just any dream. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program
this year, the very tangible goal is to deliver a low-cost, safe alternative for transporting astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations.
While space tourism efforts by the likes of Space Adventures
and Virgin Galactic
are relying on the tried and true technology of rockets to launch paying customers into space, Barcelona-based company zero2infinity proposes a more leisurely and eco-friendly ride into near-space using a helium balloon. Designed to carry passengers to an altitude of 36 km (22 miles), an unmanned scale prototype bloon was flown to an altitude of 33 km (20 miles) last year and the company is already taking bookings for passenger flights that are expected to lift off sometime between 2013 and 2015.
In March 2010, due to an increase in the International Space Station (ISS) crew size, Russia announced a halt its space tourism service which put seven customers into space between 2001 and 2009 for a multi-million dollar fee. Now Space Adventures, the same company responsible for putting the world’s first privately-funded space tourist, Dennis Tito
, into orbit in 2001, has announced that it will once again be offering commercial space tourism opportunities beginning in 2013.
Virgin Galactic's first generation of commercial space vehicles now have somewhere to land with the completion of the runway at Spaceport America
in New Mexico. The 42-inch thick, almost two mile long "spaceway" was dedicated in a ceremony attended by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Buzz Aldrin, Sir Richard Branson and around 30 soon-to-be space tourists who have signed up as Virgin Galactic
's first customers.