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Virgin Galactic video offers detailed look at its space tourism ride

Virgin Galactic has released a new video showing off its suborbital space tourism ride in greater detail than ever before.

The presentation landed on the same day that the company announced a new phase of ticket sales for its trip to the edge of space, with a single seat costing a hefty $450,000.

Virgin Galactic Spaceflight System

As the video shows, passengers flying to the edge of space with Virgin Galactic won’t begin their journey aboard a rocket, but instead, be flown to an altitude of 50,000 feet by a carrier aircraft while seated inside VSS Unity. Virgin Galactic trumpets its launch design as much smoother — and likely less stomach-churning — than a conventional rocket launch.

The carrier aircraft releases Unity once it reaches the required altitude. Seconds later, Unity will fire up its rocket engine, blasting the spaceplane and its six passengers toward the Kármán line, the point 62 miles above Earth generally regarded as the edge of space.

When the rocket motor shuts off, the passengers can unbuckle their seat belts and float around the cabin while enjoying the spectacular views of Earth far below.

The video also describes Virgin Galactic’s special “feather” technology that sees the spaceplane transform from a winged vehicle to a capsule vehicle for the start of its journey home, and then back to a winged vehicle for the final stages of the flight that ends with a runway landing.

Virgin Galactic performed a number of successful test flights last year that culminated in its first fully crewed mission, with Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and five others going along for the ride.

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the company as one of its test planes crashed in 2014 with the loss of a pilot.

Eight years on, and with a number of redesigns to the hardware, Virgin Galactic is aiming to launch a commercial space tourism service before the end of this year. Around 600 people have already signed up following an earlier round of ticket sales. Now the company is hoping more wealthy individuals will spend close to half a million dollars for a 90-minute experience they’ll never forget.

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