Virgin Galactic – First Fully Crewed Spaceflight

Virgin Galactic successfully completed its first fully-crewed Spaceflight on 11 July 2021. It was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson.

and some more pictures

VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve.

VSS Unity reached the edge of space, at an altitude of 53.5 miles (281,424 ft) before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America 15 minutes later. Unity is a sub-orbital spacecraft which means that it cannot reach the altitude needed to enter into an orbit around the earth.

The entire trip was streamed live on YouTube (complete video is more than 2 hours long)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTpWYWIfP7Y

It was also possible to track the flight on Flightradar24, a global flight tracking service that provides real-time information about thousands of aircraft around the world

A message from Branson during the flight

(on youtube at https://youtu.be/X0XwIl5X96c)

Tickets for the flight currently cost around $250,000 and passengers will reach the edge of space where the sky becomes black and you can see the Earth’s curvature. The flights provide about 5 minutes of weightlessness and passengers will be allowed to leave their seats and float around inside the cabin.

Branson is offering a unique opportunity to “Win Two Seats on One of the FIRST Virgin Galactic Flights to Space”, in a prize draw organised in conjunction with omaze.com

https://www.omaze.com/products/virgin-galactic-2021?ref=space

Richard Branson commented, “It’s the complete experience of a lifetime”.

Is Virgin Galactic designed to simply provide another Virgin Experience day and purely useful as a new Space Tourist gimmick. If you simply want to experience weightlessness it’s a lot cheaper to try a ZERO-G experience at around $7,500

https://www.gozerog.com/

Do you actually reach space and can you be called an astronaut?

The Kármán line is an attempt to define a boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. According to Wikipedia, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), an international organisation for aeronautics and astronautics, defines the Kármán line as the altitude of 100 km (54 miles) above Earth’s mean sea level. However, NASA, the US Space Force, US Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration define the boundary as 80 km (50 miles)above sea level. International law does not define the edge of space.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A1rm%C3%A1n_line

Flying from the US will achieve the status of astronaut however debate will continue as to whether passengers have actually reached space.

Background

Virgin Galactic is one of a number of companies researching and developing the next generation of reusable space vehicles. The intention is to operate a regular schedule of spaceflights for private individuals and researchers from Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose built commercial spaceport located on 27 square miles of desert landscape in New Mexico.

Branson announced plans to make a space plane in 2004 and hoped to have a commercial service running by 2007, but the program has been beset with difficulties before todays successful flight.

Details about Virgin Galactic can be found at their website:

https://www.virgingalactic.com/

As well as Sir Richard Branson’s approach, Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com) is developing a sub-orbital craft in his Blue Origin company, which was founded in 2000.

https://www.blueorigin.com/

The Blue Origin reusable rocket system New Shepard, is due to have its first (human) flight on 20 July 2021 – the anniversary of the Apollo mission to the moon. A recent auction to accompany Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark on the first flight resulted in a winning bid of $28 million – The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, whose mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and to help invent the future of life in space.