Last July Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2), the VSS Enterprise, made its first manned flight
. For the duration of that flight, the spacecraft remained attached to its jet-powered carrier aircraft. But over the weekend VSS Enterprise left the protective grip of its mothership, VMS Eve
, to successfully achieve its first manned free flight. Released from VMS Eve at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,700 meters), VSS Enterprise glided for 11 minutes before landing at Mojave Air and Spaceport, successfully completing the two main goals of the flight.
Out of financial necessity, Russia was one of the innovators when it came to the burgeoning field of space tourism
, with American businessman and former JPL scientist Dennis Tito
becoming the first space tourist in mid-2001 when he spent nearly eight days in orbit on the Russian Soyuz TM-32, the International Space Station (ISS), and Soyuz TM-31. Following Russia’s halting of orbital space tourism earlier this year due to an increase in the ISS crew size, private Russian company, Orbital Technologies, has now announced plans to build, launch and operate the world’s first commercial space station (CSS). It envisions the station will be used by professional crews and corporate researchers to conduct scientific experiments, as well as private citizens looking for an out of this world holiday destination.
Boeing and Space Adventures
have joined forces to offer "affordable" travel to low Earth orbit for private space tourists
. A memorandum of agreement between the two companies could see flights on-board the Boeing Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100) spacecraft from 2015.
Virgin Galactic has taken another important step to becoming the world’s first private commercial spaceline with its VSS Enterprise spacecraft flying with a crew on board for the first time. The craft formerly known as SpaceShipTwo
remained attached to VMS Eve
, the jet-powered carrier aircraft from which the VSS Enterprise will eventually be launched, for the duration of the flight to allow for numerous combined vehicle systems tests to be conducted.
Virgin Galactic continues to rack-up the milestones in its quest to get sub-orbital space tourism up and running, this time with its inaugural “captive carry” test flight. VSS Enterprise
spent 2 hours 54 minutes attached to the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft in the skies above the Mojave Air and Spaceport, California. The spaceship will be cut loose from its carrier for independent glide and then powered flight testing as the program continues through 2010 and 2011, then it's all-aboard for paying customers.
It seems that Sir Richard Branson's quest to conquer unexplored frontiers isn't limited to space tourism
.The Virgin boss's latest acquisition is a DeepFlight three-person aero submarine that "flies" through the briny deep using the positive buoyancy system
developed by Graham Hawkes. Christened Necker Nymph, the flying sub will find a home on Branson's 74 acre private island in the British Virgin Islands where it will launch from shore as well as operating from the luxury 105 foot catamaran Necker Belle - just add a quiet US$25,000 to the weekly hire price tag.
We’ve seen the mothership
from which the world’s first manned commercial spaceship will be air launched and we’ve even seen design images of the craft itself
. Now Virgin Galactic has unveiled the actual spaceship that will take private astronauts into space - SpaceshipTwo (SS2). The unveiling at Mojave Air and Spaceport today marks the first time the craft has been revealed to the public since construction began in 2007 and brings Virgin Galactic another step closer to realizing its goal of becoming the world’s first commercial space line providing private sector access to space.
If Richard Branson turns up somewhere, you can be fairly certain there’ll be a photo opportunity attached. But Branson’s appearance on Monday at EAA Airventure, the world’s largest private air show, was much more than a PR stunt. It also marked the first public flight of Virgin Galactic’s
“Mothership” Eve, and signaled space tourism is now closer than ever
Space - it's the final frontier of human exploration, a mysterious eternity of distance, all around us and yet so tantalizingly out of reach. In its dark recesses hide the secrets of extraterrestrial life, planets yet to be explored, and it's reasonable to assume, some sort of future home for the human race once we're finished stuffing this planet up. Although mankind has been fascinated with space since we first saw the twinkling of night-time stars, it's only in the last half century that we have developed spaceships that allow us to take both ourselves and our equipment and technology outside the Earth's atmosphere. While the exhilaration of early space exploration seems to have faded in the public imagination over the past three decades, the scene is now set for a whole new space race. Loz Blain looks at where the 21st Century space Odyssey will take us and how we'll get there. Listen to the Podcast
Commercial sub-orbital spaceflight has taken another step towards reality with Virgin Galactic announcing the completion of phase one testing on the rocket motor that will propel SpaceShipTwo
into suborbital space. The Virgin Galactic project to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public will also act as a stepping stone to the company’s plans for future orbital flights and will almost certainly lead to a dramatic decrease in long haul international flight times – a couple of hours from Sydney to London anyone?