Virgin Galactic will launch regular suborbital tourist flights this year

The private space company Virgin Galactic intends to launch commercial suborbital tourist flights this year, where the company’s customers will be delivered to outer space for a short period. Although the company now does not conduct flights, it has reopened the opportunity to book tickets to participate in an exciting trip for $ 450,000.

Image source: CNBC

Remember that Virgin Galactic uses an air launch strategy for suborbital flights. First, the carrier aircraft VMS Eve rises to an altitude of 15 km. The VSS Unity vessel is then separated by six passengers and two pilots on board. After separation, due to its own engine, the ship reaches an altitude of about 80 km (space limit according to American standards), and then returns to the atmosphere and lands at the company’s site in New Mexico.

So far, VSS Unity has been on four space missions. As part of the latest of them, in July last year, the founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, went into space with other crew members. Shortly after this flight, the company took the transport aircraft and the ship itself for maintenance and modernization. The company said that this is necessary to increase the durability and reliability of VMS Eve and VSS Unity, due to which orbital flights can be performed more often.

During a meeting with investors this week, Virgin Galactic’s CEO Michael Colglazier said the upgrades are progressing according to schedule and should begin commercial operations by the end of the year. He also noted that testing of the new spacecraft VSS Imagine should begin this year. If all goes according to plan, the first space customers will travel next year. When Imagine is fully operational, it will be able to fly about once every two weeks. At the same time, VSS Unity will not be able to fly more than once a month even after the upgrade. The company is also developing a new Delta-class spacecraft that can take off once a week. A Delta-class ship will be able to send tourists into space no earlier than 2026.

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