Virgin Galactic reveals new craft for commercial space travel

Sir Richard Branson’s intergalactic ambitions have taken flight once more, after Virgin Galactic unveiled an updated version of its commercial spacecraft, which will begin a new round of testing following a fatal crash 16 months ago.

The incident, which killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injured pilot Peter Siebold, happened in November 2014. While testing, the craft suffered a catastrophic in-flight breakup and crashed into California’s Mojave Desert, seriously delaying plans to create commercial spaceflight a reality.

The new Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity is the first vehicle to be manufactured by Virgin Galactic’s own manufacturing arm, The Spaceship Company. At present there are plans to create a total of five VSS crafts.

First unveiled in 2008, the passenger plane is piggybacked to a high altitude by a larger plane. A rocket is then fired at 50,000ft (15,240m) to carry the unattached vessel into the earth’s upper atmosphere on the fringes of space.

During the flight, passengers will experience about four minutes of weightlessness, and will be able to view the Earth from roughly 150,000ft (45,700m) up.

"We're very much looking forward to starting the test programme and getting back on track," said Branson.

"Together, we can make space accessible in a way that has only been dreamt of before now, and by doing so can bring positive change to life on Earth.

"Our beautiful new spaceship, VSS Unity, is the embodiment of that goal and will provide us with an unprecedented body of experience which will in turn lay the foundations for Virgin Galactic's future."

For those who can’t afford the US$250,000 (€225,500, £176,200) flight cost, the experience will be available a little closer to home, with a multi-million dollar visitor experience at Virgin’s Spaceport America in New Mexico, offering a hands-on, authentic experience inside a commercial space launch facility.

Virgin Galactic  Richard Branson  Space travel  tourism  
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Sir Richard Branson’s intergalactic ambitions have taken flight once more, after Virgin Galactic unveiled an updated version of its commercial spacecraft, which will begin a new round of testing following a fatal crash 16 months ago. The incident, which killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injured pilot Peter Siebold, happened in November 2014. While testing, the craft suffered a catastrophic in-flight breakup and crashed into California’s Mojave Desert, seriously delaying
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The new Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity is the first vehicle to be manufactured by Virgin Galactic’s own manufacturing arm, The Spaceship Company
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