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Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is a subsidiary of the Virgin Group Ltd., a conglomerate founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson. The company was founded in 2004 with the stated purpose of providing access to space for ordinary people. Just how many "ordinary people" can afford the $250,000 (originally $200,000) price tag for a suborbital trip to the fringes of space has not been stated.

Launch operations are to take place at Spaceport America located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico. The spaceport has been built at a cost of $212 million in New Mexico taxpayer money.

Commercial operations are anticipated to begin in 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023.

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo were unveiled on 23 January 2008. The first test flight of VMS Eve (mothership) took place on 12 December 2008. The first rocket powered test flight of VSS Enterprise (spacecraft) took place on 29 April 2013.

Development of SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic has not gone without mishap. There was an accident on 26 July 2007 which killed 3 people during testing of a SpaceShipTwo hybrid engine. Testing resumed after a redesign of the SpaceShipTwo engines and a change from a rubber-based propellant to a plastic-based fuel mix The new propellant mix may jeopardize SS2's ability to actually achieve the Kármán line.

A test flight over California's Mojave Desert on 31 October 2014 resulted in a mid-air explosion and loss of the vehicle, VSS Enterprise. Scaled Composites test pilot Michael Alsbury, age 39, was killed in the mishap.

After the completion in early 2016 of a second spaceship (VSS Unity, formerly VSS Voyager), testing once more resumed. On 13 December 2018, during its 4th powered flight, VSS enity reached the edge of space, achieving an altitude of 82.7 km.

The below photos are from the Virgin Galactic press kit, released 23 January 2008. Click to enlarge any of them.

On 13 December 2018, VSS Unity reached an altitude of 82.7 km. While short of the Kármán line, this is considered space. 2019 may be the year Virgin Galactic actually starts carrying passengers to the fringes of space.

Mother and SS2 1 Mother and SS2 2 SS2 construction
Mothership and SpaceShipTwo Mothership and SpaceShipTwo Mothership construction with wing
in front of two booms
SS2 construction 2 SS1, SS2 comparison SS2 flight profile
Mothership construction with wing
in front of two booms
Comparison of SpaceShipOne
and SpaceShipTwo
flight profile
SS2 construction SS2 zero G SS2 feathered
under construction
(credit: Thierry Boccon-Gibod)
zero gravity
VMS Eve maiden flight
First test flight of VMS Eve
(credit: Scaled Composites press release)


Page last modified: 31 May 2023 20:58:50.