Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has made history as its SpaceShipTwo – the first ever commercial human spaceflight – touched the edge of space and returned back to the Earth successfully.
It is an important milestone in the journey of Virgin Galactic and the embarkation of the space tourism industry. On Thursday, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo took off from California’s Mojave Desert to fly 80km above Earth, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines as the boundary of outer space, and landed safety back on the Earth.
According to the company, the spaceflight crossed the speed of 2.9M—nearly thrice the speed of sound—during its attempt to reach the company’s long-elusive goal. Mark “Forger” Stucky and Rick “CJ” Sturckow, who is a former NASA astronaut, were the two pilots on board; they will be awarded FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings.
SpaceShipTwo was Virgin Galactic’s fourth test flight and the first successful one after facing multiple setbacks in the company’s space program. Though the spaceflight did not cross the 100km ‘Kármán line’, Fédération aéronautique internationale’s (FAI) definition of space, it has marked an important turning point for the space tourism industry.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is in competition with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX – two giants in the space tourism industry. According to the latest updated by Blue Origin, the company is expected to start selling tickets to space tourists in 2019, which may cost around US$ 200,000 to US$ 300,000. SpaceX also announced recently that it will soon take a Japanese fashion entrepreneur and his friends on a lunar trip around the lunar surface in 2023, and also that it will take over US$ 5 billion to build the new spaceflight.
SpaceShipTwo returns from space 🚀 🌎 pic.twitter.com/UscFxNMF6J
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) December 13, 2018
Virgin Galactic’s 90-minute spaceflight costs around US$250,000 and over 600 clients have signed up for its sub-orbital missions including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio. The recent developments in the space tourism industry, including the Virgin Galactic’s futuristic launch of human spaceships, are likely to put an end to governments’ hegemony in space travel soon.