According to Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson became the first human to enter outer space while riding a rocket. His company, Virgin Galactic, developed the ultrasonic space plane, and it boomed into the sky over New Mexico early on Sunday. The rocket took Branson along with his three fellow crew members into space.
Branson – in the company of Virgin Galactic employees Sirisha Bandla, Beth Moses, and Colin Bennett and pilots Michael Michael Masucci and Dave Mackay – boarded the aerial plane with a single rocket motor, SpaceShipTwo. Moreover, the company spent almost twenty years developing it before the crack of dawn. The SpaceShipTwo, attached with the massive twin-fuselaged mothership, took the skies at 08:30 am MT and climbed to around fifty thousand feet in the air.
Furthermore, just after 09:15 am, the SpaceShipTwo separated from its mothership and was released temporarily before its engine screamed to life and the vehicle jumped upward. Onboard, the passengers faced up to three Gs of force from the burst of tremendous acceleration and viewed the blue-sky fade into the star-spotted darkness of outer space.
At the top of the flight route, over fifty miles high, the spaceship suspended in lightness for some minutes, allowing the passengers to enjoy panoramic views of Space and Earth as SpaceShipTwo flipped into its belly. Afterward, it positioned its feathering system, which curls the wings of the plane upward, mirroring the shape of a badminton shuttlecock, to turn SpaceShipTwo rightward as it flew back into the thick atmosphere of Earth and slipped back down to a runway landing.
Branson with Elon Musk
Richard Branson said that as he floated around in microgravity, he recorded a video message using cameras onboard the space plane and said to kids out there that he was once a child and dreamed of looking up to the stars. Now he is in a spaceship and adult. Further, he said to the next generation of dreamers that imagine what they can do if they can do this.
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 11, 2021
The flight marked only the 4th test flight of the vehicle that approached the space edge. Surrounding the launch of the SpaceShipTwo was in typical Branson fashion – a high-production gathering with family, friends, employees, and some VIPs in attendance. Earlier on Sunday, Branson tweeted his picture with Elon Musk. Grammy-nominated artist Khalid also likely to perform a yet unreleased song on an outdoor stage.
Big day ahead. Great to start the morning with a friend. Feeling good, feeling excited, feeling ready.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
Landmark Moment for the Commercial Space Industry
The flight of Branson came nine days before Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, scheduled to rocket into suborbital space on-board spacecraft of his own company, and it is a landmark moment for the commercial space industry. The emerging sector has sought for several years to make suborbital space tourism a feasible business aiming for thousands of people to experience the epinephrine rush and sweeping sights of Earth that such flights can offer.
Bezos and Branson assumed to become direct competitors in that industry, and both are offering tickets to well-off customers for brief rides to the outer Earth atmosphere on-board supersonic, rocket-powered spacecraft. Virgin Galactic has plans to conduct only one more test flight before it starts flying paying customers. Over six hundred people reserved tickets priced at two hundred thousand dollars to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars so far. The company planned to reopen ticket sales soon, though at a higher price.
How to Win a Trip to Space?
The flight of Branson also helps boost the reputation of Virgin Galactic as the first commercial spaceline of the world. That is how the company publicized itself as it registered those hundreds of willing customers who waited through a tragic mishap – and developmental delays for their chance to ride aboard SpaceShipTwo.
Moreover, the flight of Bezos, scheduled for 20th July, could start the commercial operations of the company sooner than that, and one of his fellow passengers on the flight is a paying customer, who won a ticket through charity auction for around twenty-eight million dollars. However, the company has not yet started selling tickets to the public, and it also has not set a specific date for when it plans to do.
Space is for everyone. You could make history and win 2 seats on one of the FIRST Virgin Galactic commercial spaceflights! Proceeds will benefit our mission to expand access to space for all of humanity.
— Space for Humanity (@SpaceHumanity) July 11, 2021
Series of Setbacks in Development Program
After some years of delay, Virgin Galactic moved into its facilities in New Mexico in May 2019. Spaceport America, the glitzy building, was paid for over two hundred million dollars in generally taxpayer money, and it had been waiting approximately a decade for Virgin Galactic to approach and open for business.
Furthermore, the company renovated the building to include a lounge and other facilities that ticket holders will be able to use before their short-term journey to the space edge. However, the development program of Galactic endured a series of setbacks, such as a disastrous accident during the 2014 test flight that left a co-pilot dead and the main pilot severely injured after the premature deployment of the feathering system of the SpaceShipTwo, ripping the spacecraft apart.
Since then, the company has separated ways with its manufacturing partner and said it enhanced SpaceShipTwo with extra automated safeguards. Before Sunday’s test flight, Branson said that he was nervous about joining the pilots and test engineers who previously flown on SpaceShipTwo because he felt it established a key vote of confidence.
Earlier this month, Branson told CNN Business’ Rachel Crane that Virgin Galactic always has people on its every spaceflight. They agreed to fly with those people show to demonstrate their confidence. Further, he adds that the least the company’s founder can do is climb there and fly with his people.