Billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos will have to fly to the final frontier aboard their own spaceship during the month of July.
On July 11 at 14:30 GMT, Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, along with two pilots and three more passengers, will leave Virgin Galactic’s operational base at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert. Its crew will reach a maximum altitude of about 89 km (55 miles) and will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before making a gliding descent to Earth.
Nine days later, on July 20, Amazon CEO Bezos will emerge from a reusable rocket from a launcher in West Texas with five other people, including his brother Mark. Its crew will reach an altitude of about 100 km (62 miles).
Get to the edge of space
Branson is known for his bold reputation as a mogul with a legacy of sea and hot air balloon expeditions. It is ready to promote its fast and flourishing astrotourism adventure by projecting itself into suborbital space.
Sunday’s launch will be Virgin Galactic Holding Inc’s (SPCE.N) first manned test flight with full crew on the edge of space.
The spacecraft will be released by a double-fuselage carrier called VMS Eve (named after Branson’s mother) at an altitude of 15,240 meters (50,000 feet), where Unity will be released, and will board a rocket in an almost vertical rise through the outer fringe of the Earth’s atmosphere.
At the top of their flight, about 89 km over the New Mexico desert, the crew will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before making a gliding descent to Earth. The flight is expected to last about 90 minutes and will be broadcast live.
Virgin’s Unity 22 mission marks the 22nd test flight of the spacecraft and the company’s fourth manned mission beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
While the mission is seen as a potential milestone in helping to transform citizen rocket travel into a conventional commercial enterprise, spaceflight remains an intrinsically dangerous endeavor.
An earlier prototype of the Virgin Galactic rocket plane crashed during a test flight over the Mojave Desert, California, in 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another.
Branson’s Sunday flight disrupts rival Bezos and his space company, Blue Origin, for nine days in what is called “the multimillion-dollar space race.”
Bezos, founder and former CEO of online retail giant Amazon.com, is scheduled to fly aboard the Blue Origin suborbital rocket, the New Shepard, on July 20th.
Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, along with SpaceX, their billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, compete head-to-head in the emerging space tourism business, although Musk is making great strides.
SpaceX, which plans to send its first all-civilian crew (without Musk) into orbit in September, has already launched numerous payloads and astronauts into the International Space Station.
Who is on board?
VSS Unity has two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, who will control the starting and stopping of the ship’s rocket engine and activate the maneuvering of the “leaded” tail for re-entry.
The other three mission specialists are Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, chief operating engineer at Virgin Galactic; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of research operations and government affairs.
Virgin says it plans two more test flights of the spacecraft before commercial service begins next year.
The company has said it has received more than 600 flight bookings, priced at about $ 250,000 per ticket, but expects to reduce the cost of each seat to $ 40,000.
U.S.-based institutes, such as the USAF, define space at 80 km (50 miles), which is marginally different from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), which defines space at 100 km (62 miles) above the level. of the sea. The Karman line is also defined at almost 100 km. NASA mission control defines the start of space at 122 km (76 miles).
Virgin Galactic will rotate around 89 km and Blue Origin will travel 100 km above sea level.
It is often attributed that space begins when the atmosphere alone is not enough to support a flying ship at suborbital velocity.