Virgin Galactic to start new flight tests as passengers wait patiently for lift-off

virgin galactic to start new flight tests spaceshiptwo
As an increasing number of companies look at ways to take regular folk (well, regular folk with tons of cash in the bank) into space, the Virgin Galactic team, which has been at the forefront of the so-called ‘space tourism’ business, has announced it’s gearing up to launch a new round of rocket-powered test flights for its planned service.

In a recent interview with, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said that the completion last week of ground-based qualification tests on rocket motors for SpaceShipTwo means its first test flights since January will be able to start “soon,” though he added that a precise date is yet to be fixed.

The CEO said that while the company has conducted many development tests over the years, the more recent qualification tests involve “firing the same motor design multiple times to make sure you’re seeing the same thing every time.” These trials have evidently gone well, as Whitesides has confirmed the team now “feels ready to put that motor on the spaceship.”

Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, has six seats for passengers willing to hand over $250,000 a time for a once-in-a-lifetime trip into space. Around 600 people have already paid up, among them actor Ashton Kutcher and singer Lady Gaga.

In an appearance on Letterman last month, Virgin boss Richard Branson has said he expects the first commercial flight to take place as soon as February or March next year. And yes, he plans to be on board.

The whole experience is set to last a couple of hours ground to ground, with only a few minutes spent in space. SpaceShipTwo has been designed to launch from a high-altitude carrier – WhiteKnightTwo – which will take off from Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America base near El Paso in New Mexico.

Other companies besides Virgin Galactic are known to be developing alternative space tourism services. Arizona-based World View Enterprises, for example, is making progress with its balloon-based experience, which it hopes will be able to take to the skies in 2016.

World View plans to offer customers a “peaceful” flight to the edge of space “for a two-hour sailing-like experience.”

A ticket for its high-altitude balloon trip cost $75,000, making it considerably cheaper than SpaceShipTwo’s asking price. However, whereas Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft is set to travel more than 65 miles above the Earth’s surface, the balloon will go no higher than 23 miles.

[ via Cnet]

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Waymo at last fires up the self-driving smarts of the Jaguar I-Pace

A year after inking a deal with Jaguar to use its I-Pace crossover for its self-driving program, Waymo has started testing the electric vehicle in autonomous mode with a view to adding it to its driverless ridesharing service.
Emerging Tech

Airbus’ new single-aisle jet has longest range in its class and a fancy cabin

Airbus has unveiled the design of its new A321XLR jet, an aircraft that it says will be capable of trips of around 5,400 miles, making it the world's longest range single-aisle airliner when it takes to the skies in 2023.

Apple's iOS 13 Beta 2 is available to developers -- here are the changes

Apple announced iOS 13 during the keynote presentation at its 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference. This is the next version of its mobile operating system, which will come to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod near you soon.

American Airlines expands its fast in-flight Wi-Fi, but it will still cost you

American Airlines has completed the installation of satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi for the whole of its mainline narrowbody fleet comprising more than 700 planes, mainly on its domestic routes. But the service still costs.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Pass the salt please: Table salt found on Jupiter’s moon Europa

Astronomers have spotted something unexpectedly familiar on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa -- sodium chloride, better known as table salt. This suggests the under-ice oceans on Europa are salty and similar to our oceans on Earth.
Emerging Tech

Hubble captures explosive galaxy, the site of three recent supernovae

Hubble's latest image is of the spiral galaxy NGC 4051 which is notable for having played host to a large number of supernovae: the first seen in 1983 (SN 1983I), the second in 2003 (SN 2003ie), and the most recent in 2010 (SN 2010br).
Emerging Tech

The grainy texture of Saturn’s rings reveals clues to their origins

New analysis of data from Cassini shows that Saturn's rings are not smooth, but rather are grainy in texture. Scientists believe that tiny moons within the rings cause materials to cluster and form clumps and straw-like patterns.
Emerging Tech

The Very Large Telescope gets upgrade to aid its hunt for habitable exoplanets

The Very Large Telescope is growing even bigger. The latest addition to the telescope's suite of instruments is a tool called NEAR (Near Earths in the AlphaCen Region) which will hunt for exoplanets in the nearby Alpha Centauri star…
Emerging Tech

Your smartphone could be the key to predicting natural disasters

A challenge for atmospheric scientists is gathering enough data to understand the complex, planet-wide weather system. Now a scientist has come up with a clever idea to gather more data using smartphones and Internet of Things devices.
Emerging Tech

Tormented robot pulls a gun on its creators in latest Boston Dynamics spoof

Boston Dynamics' remarkable robots often receive a good few shoves in its videos, and the eager mistreatment recently inspired a team of L.A.-based video artists to give its rather amusing take on the matter.
Smart Home

A new survey by Adobe shows an evolving market for voice applications

A new consumer survey conducted by Adobe Analytics has uncovered a growing desire for more diversity in voice-controlled applications and devices as well as growing engagement with voice ads.
Emerging Tech

Live long and prosper? Experimental compound could slow down the aging process

Want to extend your natural lifespan beyond its current limits? A metabolite of biomolecules — found in pomegranates of all places — could help slow the aging process. Here's how.