The company that successfully carried out the world’s first private spaceflight is now less than a year away from creating a commercial suborbital space tourism business.
Virgin Galactic was able to fly its Virgin Spaceship Enterprise in March 2010 to 43,000 feet, which was then followed by two years of test flights to test the feathered glide mechanics.
Earlier this year the craft was fitted with a new rocket engine and on September 5, SpaceShip Two successfully carried out a supersonic flight, reaching mach 1.43 during a climb from 42,000 feet to 69,000 feet over the Mojave Desert.
“In addition to achieving the highest altitude and greatest speed to date, the test flight demonstrated the vehicle’s full technical mission profile in a single flight for the first time … All of the test objectives were successfully completed,” the company reported.
Richard Branson added in a blog post that “Virgin Galactic is now gearing up for the commercial service, finalizing cabin interiors, flight suits, training programs and the multiple other details required to offer hundreds of aspiring astronauts a safe and awe-inspiring journey.”
Branson also confirmed that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the Virgin Galactic’s flight license application for review, so the company is a huge step closer to receiving permission from the US government to conduct commercial flights next year.
A Profitable Venture
Although doubt have been raised as to whether this business will turn a profit, Branson and his partners seem convinced that it will yield large profits. A plant in the Mojave Desert and a second of five additional SS2 craft have already been produced, with an additional three White Knight motherships also scheduled for production.
The SS2 has a suborbital flight test scheduled for December 2013 and if this goes well then Virgin Galactic plans to officially launch commercial spaceflights in 2014. According to Mr Branson the company is aiming for 50 to 100 spaceflights in 2014 and 2015, for up to 600 passengers.
So far 575 customers have booked a spaceflight, with some famous names being amount the numbers. Ashton Kutcher has been reported to have booked his seat on the spacecraft. A flight will cost $250,000 and will last two hours, with a few minutes of the flight being in suborbital space.
There is still alot of work still to do in making this a successful venture but if it does work, then Virgin Galactic could be the first profitable large-scale suborbital tourism company the world sees.
[Image via Virgin Galactic]