26 October 2011

Commercial Space Travel To Start by 2013

Nope. Those aren't UFO's you are seeing in the New Mexico skyline.

Last week, Sir Richard Branson dedicated Spaceport America, the world's first built-from-scratch commercial spaceport. Among the attendees were New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The crowd included about 150 people who have already bought tickets for the flights to outer space. They were treated to a flyover from Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo (image), the main vehicle or "mothership" that will launch the suborbital spacecraft.

Here is Sir Richard Branson on a promotional video about Virgin Galactic's space flight:

Owned by Branson's company, Virgin Galactic, he plans to conduct commercial flights to outer space by 2013. The space flight experience promises passengers views of the Earth as seen only by astronauts.

He hopes to launch the outer space service in two years time if things go well. Stephen Attenborough, the firms commercial director stressed that the customers' safety is paramount. Originally, Sir Richard planned a first commercial space trip in 2007 with his spacecraft, SpaceShip Two.

Test flights are currently ongoing, with rocket-powered tests scheduled for next year. The eccentric billionaire hopes hopes that Virgin Galactic's commercial space flights could begin soon after.

Once operational, the 2.5-hour space flight will offer five minutes of weightlessness and cost $200,000. Around 500 people have already bought tickets.

For the first trip, he plans to take his children with him. "They are willing to put a large amount of money up front because they trust us, because they know we will only take them to space if it's safe to do so," he said.

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