British billionaire Richard Branson went to the edge of space as part of a test flight of the VSS Unity space shuttle of his company Virgin Galactic. His flight is considered a milestone in competition in nascent lucrative space tourism. Branson is nine days ahead of Blue Origin’s main competitor, Jeff Bezos, who planned his space trip on July 20.
The VSS Unity space shuttle took off from the Spaceport America spaceport near Truth or Consequences in New Mexico at 4:41 p.m. The parent aircraft VMS Eve brought the ship to the expected height of about 15 kilometers. Then the shuttle separates, starts its own engines and climbs steeply to the 90-kilometer mark.
When reaching the highest point of the flight, the crew will experience a state of weightlessness for several minutes. Then the machine slowly descends and lands on the runway of the Spaceport America spaceport, from which it took off with the carrier aircraft. If everything goes according to plan, the whole flight will take an hour and a half.
This is the 22nd VSS Unity flight test. Three of the twenty-one have taken place with people on board. This time, however, it is the first flight with a full, six-member crew. It consists of two pilots and four “mission specialists”, including Branson.
Virgin Galactic has previously announced that it expects to launch its space commercial services next year. However, this should be preceded by two more test flights. Sunday’s flight is considered a milestone in the nascent lucrative space tourism, the demand for it is strong and several hundred rich people have booked space flights. One ticket costs around $ 250,000 (over CZK 5.4 million).
Bezos is to continue flying
Branson’s main competitor Jeff Bezos will fly over 100 kilometers high on July 20, which is the more generally accepted limit of space. Without announcing that the boss of Virgin Galactic will fly before him, the importance of his competitor’s efforts has diminished. He pointed out that Branson wasn’t actually looking into space. As in any previous flight, the VSS Unity space shuttle will not exceed an altitude of 100 kilometers, which is the generally accepted limit of the beginning of space.
“Only four percent of the world recognizes the lower limit of 80 kilometers, or 50 miles, as the beginning of space,” Bezos’s Blue Origin said in a Twitter. She added that her New Shepard rocket flies over a hundred kilometers, which is “one of the many benefits of flying with Blue Origin”.
“We live only once”
British billionaire Sir Richard Branson is not only a successful businessman, but also a soul adventurer with a passion for everything unusual and risky. Its business empire includes hundreds of companies that unite the Virgin brand, including the space Virgin Galactic.
Branson is also looking for alternative energy sources. In addition, he sometimes tries to set a world record – this series also includes a flight into space – and several times he has had “almost”. For example, in 1985 he was rescued from an overturned boat, on which he tried to break the record in the speed of crossing the Atlantic. He ended up in the ocean two years later, when an attempt at a transatlantic balloon flight failed.
“We only live once, so we need to make good use of it,” said Branson, who started the first business at the age of 16, when he was young. Forbes magazine estimated his assets at $ 5.6 billion this year.