UNITED STATES: Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, achieved a significant milestone today after completing its first-ever commercial space mission.
The flight, named Galactic 01, carried four passengers to suborbital space and back, marking a significant step forward in Virgin Galactic’s ambitious plans for space travel.
Taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the flight reached suborbital space approximately 58 minutes after liftoff.
After a few minutes of weightlessness at an apogee of 52.9 miles, the space plane safely returned to Spaceport America and made a flawless landing.
Sirisha Bandla, a representative from Virgin Galactic, expressed her joy upon touchdown and praised the mission’s success.
Virgin Galactic’s journey to commercial space flight has been long and challenging. The company, founded in 2004, initially expected to fly paying customers into space by 2007.
However, it took several years of development and testing to reach suborbital space with their SpaceShipTwo vehicle, named VSS Unity, which made its first successful flight in December 2018.
The recent flight, Galactic 01, was made possible by the extensive maintenance and upgrade work performed on VSS Unity and its carrier plane, VMS Eve.
The mission catered to the Italian Air Force and the country’s National Research Council, which had booked the flight for suborbital research.
Three individuals from these organizations, and a Virgin Galactic astronaut instructor were aboard the space plane.
The passengers conducted various scientific experiments during the flight, including studying microgravity effects on the human body and the behaviour of certain substances in space.
The success of Galactic 01 sets the stage for Virgin Galactic to begin fulfilling customer bookings, with the second commercial flight, Galactic 02, planned for early August.
Virgin Galactic aims to increase the frequency of flights in the future, with a fleet of space planes and carrier craft currently under development.
The company envisions a future where space travel becomes routine, with the potential to fly customers to space every day from multiple global locations.
This vision aligns with other companies in the space tourism sector, such as Jeff Bezos‘ Blue Origin, which also aims to offer suborbital space flights.
Virgin Galactic’s first commercial mission is a significant achievement for the company in the private space industry.
With hundreds of customers eagerly awaiting their turn to experience space travel, the company will play a crucial role in expanding human presence beyond Earth.
As Virgin Galactic continues to push boundaries and open up new frontiers, the future of space tourism looks promising.