Sir Richard Branson's dream of commercial space flight is about to become a reality with plans to send the first passengers into space by 2013.
Visitors to the Farnborough International Airshow in England got their first look at a replica of SpaceShip Two the first commercial passenger spaceship, while the real one undergoes more testing in California's Mojave Desert.
Branson says Virgin Galactic has taken deposits on SpaceShip Two from 529 astronaut wannabes, that's more than the total number of people who have ever gone into space and he and his two adult children will be the first passengers on board. Cost of a ticket for the two hour flight is $200,000 and each flight will carry 6 passengers and two crew 100 kilometers above the earth. The Winnipeg Free Press says Branson told a packed news conference, "Next year, Holly and Sam will be joining me for a first voyage into space." "Going into space is a hard business. It keeps my mind buzzing."
55 year old former RAF pilot Dave MacKay is the first to actually fly the space ship and says all the key rocket testing stages are going well. He tells The Daily Record, “I’m lucky enough to have flown a lot of different aircraft but SpaceShipTwo was the first time for a long time that I have felt that real adrenaline rush and buzz from flying.” “As all pilots are control freaks, this is very satisfying and an amazing flying experience for me."
The Daily Record says there are two sections, WhiteKnightTwo, the mother ship, takes off like a normal plane, with SpaceShipTwo attached. Once it reaches 50,000 feet the smaller aircraft will separate and a rocket propels it 340,000 feet into space at a speed of Mach 3.5. The unique wing system will allow it to glide back to Earth for re-entry and landing at the new $200 million state of the art Virgin Galactic Gateway to space, dubbed Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Branson also unveiled Launcher One at the airshow, that he says will be used to launch small satellites into space at cut-rate prices in 2016. Aerospace and Defence reports the launcher will reduce prices from up to $100 million today to just $10 million dollars, according to Branson “bringing the price of satellite launch into the realm of affordability for innovators everywhere, from start-ups and schools to established companies and national space agencies.”