Now that 2014 is finally here, Virgin Galactic‘s first commercial flight with its WhiteKnightTwo / SpaceShipTwo combo edges ever so closer to reality with every day that goes past. A few days ago, they launched SpaceShipTwo 71,000ft up in the sky and tested several critical features in the process, as Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay was at the helm. One of the features being tested were the newly designed thrusters (RCS) which are used by the pilots to maneuver the vehicle in space. The other feature on trial was the tail section’s new coating which reflects heat produced by that massive rocket engine sitting just behind the passenger’s cabin as it were. SS2’s unique feather re-entry system was also tested during today’s flight.
As the company was gathering a ton of transonic and supersonic data, Sir Richard Branson said the following of the successful flight (the third supersonic, rocket-powered test flight of Virgin Galactic): “I couldn’t be happier to start the New Year with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full space flights. 2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space. Today, we had our own Chief Pilot flying another flawless supersonic flight and proving the various systems required to take us safely to space, as well as providing the very best experience while we’re up there.”
For the full article, head over to the Virgin Galactic website but be sure to check out the video below. What an AMAZING way to get 2014 going!
Well, there is XCOR Aerospace‘s Lynx which would get you into space for $95.000 and you can book (and check out the video) here. It would just be you and the pilot experiencing a half-hour suborbital flight to 100 km (330,000 feet) and then returning to a landing at the takeoff runway, but for less than half the price of a ticket aboard Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo it sounds like value for money. With a fast turnaround time (they don’t use any separate launch vehicle – as it is basically a cutting edge plane that does the whole trip from the ground to suborbit by itself using only rocket engines), they are looking at launching four flights a day meaning you could still take the family out for a nice day out.
Starchaser Industries offers a seat to anyone able to cough up £98.000 (currently around $150.000), + VAT (slap another 20% on top of that basically) and seems to take things in two stages. Their first approach will consist of a 3 person reusable space capsule called Thunderstar which will be launched on top of their own Starchaser 5 rocket. Stage 2 of their plans will feature an 8-seater spaceplane that will take off vertically on a modified version of said rocket. You can check out more info here, but as their news is 2+ years outdated, perhaps this one bit the dust already.
Next time, we’ll look at SpaceX‘s Dragon capsule and many more. Stay tuned!