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Virgin Galactic to launch first $450K commercial spaceflight this month


It will be a space virgin no more.

Virgin Galactic is set to launch its first-ever commercial spaceflight — which has a hefty $450,000 ticket price — later this month, the company announced.

Part of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, the company will launch its debut mission, “Galactic 01,” sometime between June 27 and 30, depending on weather conditions.

A second launch, “Galactic 02,” has also been scheduled for August.

“Galactic 01, a scientific research mission, will carry three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy to conduct microgravity research,” Virgin Galactic representatives said in a statement.

“With scientific payloads on board, the spaceflight will showcase the value and power of the unique suborbital science lab that Virgin Galactic offers,” they added.

Passengers will be sent an astonishing 300,000 feet — more than 55 miles — above Earth’s surface via a carrier plane, dubbed VMS Eve, and a six-passenger, two-pilot SpaceShipTwo space plane called VSS Unity, according to Space.com.


Passengers will have out-of-this-world views of planet Earth from the craft’s 17 windows.
AP

After launch, Eve will propel passengers into the sky before it falls off at 50,000 feet. Unity will then use its own rockets to leave into sub-orbit at three times the speed of sound.

Once in space, passengers are allowed to unbuckle and experience weightlessness for several minutes and take in incredible views of Earth from one of the spacecraft’s 17 windows.

The spacecraft will then glide back to the planet for an unpowered runway landing.

These missions will launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico — Virgin Galactic’s commercial hub.

The once-in-a-lifetime trip costs a whopping $450,000, with an initial deposit of $150,000 and a final deposit of $300,000.


Richard Branson
Virgin Galactic is part of British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
REUTERS

There are already several hundred customers who have reserved a seat.

All passengers must fill out a medical questionnaire and complete last-minute checkups before the launch, the company said.

In its brochure for the flight, Virgin Galactic said passengers also have the option to undergo weeks of training, which includes “weightlessness preparation, G-Force readiness, emergency procedures, sensory saturation and more.”


Rocket going into space
Tickets cost $450,000.
AFP via Getty Images

Unity has flown five test missions so far, including its final launch in May.

The Virgin mission comes nearly two years after Branson edged out fellow billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his rocket company Blue Origin in their space race.

Virgin Galactic has been working for more than a decade to send paying passengers on short space hops and in 2021 finally won the federal government’s approval.

The company said it plans to launch 400 flights per year from Spaceport America once it finishes building its next class of rocket-powered planes at a facility in neighboring Arizona.



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