For decades space tourism has been nothing but a dream, today we might be closer than ever before.
August is a big month for Virgin Galactic, with having been awarded an operator license by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST). The company will begin test flights for its new SpaceShipTwo named VSS Unit, a crucial step in the journey to ultimately offer commercial operations to space.
The license granted by the FAA was awarded after a several- year, in-depth analysis of the spacecraft in order to determine viability. The vehicle’s system functionality, safety analysis, and flight trajectory analysis were all taken into consideration by the FAA in their decision to approve Virgin to conduct test experiments to eventually fly humans into space.
Virgin Galactic Senior Vice President of Operations Mike Moses said, “The granting of our operator license is an important milestone for Virgin Galactic, as is our first taxi test for our new spaceship. While we still have much work ahead to fully test this spaceship in flight, I am confident that our world-class team is up to the challenge.”
Ultimately, company officials have talked about having a fleet of rocket ships, able to launch frequently on a set schedule from airborne aircraft, but then return to land on a conventional runway and a specially outfitted terminal built in New Mexico.
The SpaceShipTwo spacecraft are designed to launch six passengers and two pilots into space, passengers get to briefly experience weightlessness and see the Earth from outside the atmosphere before returning to Earth. Such thrill rides would allow passengers, hundreds of whom have already plunked down $250,000 deposits, to According to Inverse & Fortune magazine, those who are speculated to have already reserved the down payment include Paris Hilton, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, and Katy Perry.
Virgin Galactic has hit milestones since their last attempt at space tourism a couple years back which end in a deadly accident when the co-pilot released the braking system too early. The co-pilot was killed and the pilot survived after suffering severe injury. The National Transportation Safety Board determined to have been due to human error and poor safety procedures.
Nonetheless, the company spear-headed by Richard Branson, has created a more sophisticated version since the first SpaceShipTwo. Virgin Galactic is now pioneering space tourism with hopes to begin commercial travel in the near future.