Virgin Galactic conducts first manned spaceline test. Here is everything you need to know

The company, founded in 2004, is a commercial spaceline that is aimed at “democratising space” by developing and operating space vehicles for individuals and researchers.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Srivatsan K C
UPDATED ON DEC 12, 2020 09:32 PM IST

Virgin Galactic, a part of the UK billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin group of companies, have launched the first manned test of its ambitious Spaceline program from New Mexico in the United States, the company said on Saturday. The company, founded in 2004, is a commercial spaceline that is aimed at “democratising space” by developing and operating space vehicles for individuals and researchers.

 

The BBC reported that Virgin Galactic aims to begin space tourism flights in 2021 and has more than 600 paying customers, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Here’s everything you need to know about the spaceline:

Vehicles

SpaceShipTwo spaceflight system is the company’s reusable system that comprises a carrier aircraft and a passenger vehicle. For the test run on Saturday, passenger vehicle SpaceShipTwo Unity is being used. WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve is a custom-built carrier vehicle that will air launch the passenger vehicle and is designed to carry it to an altitude of nearly 50,000ft.

SpaceShipTwo is a reusable, hybrid rocket motor powered carrier designed to carry up to eight people including the pilots. Virgin Galactic claims that the vehicle is designed “to maximize safety, comfort and astronaut experience.”

Stages of flight

Pre-flight: Passengers are received and adequate, necessary training is provided at Spaceport America for four days.

Climb: Carrier vehicle reaches launch altitude and the passenger vehicle detaches.

Boost: Rocket motor in the Spaceship with passengers fires up and reaches the sound barrier in six seconds. Passengers could witness leaving the atmosphere and sky colour changing via a window.

Space: Rocket motor turns off and into a unique spacious zone for passengers to experience weightlessness.

Re-entry: The spaceship descends back into the atmosphere aided by rotated/”feathered” tail booms “in slowing and stabilizing” the aircraft to glide into the landing runway at Spaceport America.

Pilots

For the first manned test run on Saturday, former NASA pilot CJ Sturckow, in his sixth flight trip, and chief pilot Dave Mackay, were the crew of the vehicle.

Schedule

The space vehicle carrier from Spaceport America, New Mexico, took-off at around 8:54pm IST, as confirmed in an official tweet. The company also added that strict Covid-19 restrictions are in place and only essential staff are at the location.

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