Virgin Galactic, the space tourism project of billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson which proposes to send people into outer space has achieved a major milestone as it will start its maiden flight in Christmas by sending astronauts into space. Mr. Branson told CNN early this week that their group of astronauts are preparing for the flight and have given it their best shot to ensure that they start their journey towards the end of this year. The first few flights of Virgin Atlantic will be undertaken by just test pilots without any passengers and once they consider it fit, the first flight will be taken by Richard Branson as a passenger.
The Galactic’s rocket powered plane, SpaceShip Two will fly through space after detaching itself from beneath the wings of its mother-ship. The plane has been tested several times on the ground and even at low attitudes but as Branson says, the first flights into space will definitely be the most dangerous as they are not sure about what to expect. The space plane will fly at 2300 miles per hour as it can accelerate to greater speeds within eight seconds. The firm has also started test flights of its rebuilt SpaceShip Two that has been named VSS Unity.
During its recent test flight in July the craft flew to an altitude of 32.3 miles but the goal is to send Unity to more than 50 miles above earth so the passengers can earn astronaut wings from US government. If the Virgin Galactic manages to fly its maiden flight before Christmas as scheduled it will put Branson’s firm ahead of close competitor Blue Origin owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Virgin Atlantic could also defeat Elon Musk’s Space X that is already making unmanned trips to orbit and is scheduled to fly astronauts into International Space Station next year. Branson stated that as safety is first as people are going into space so none of them are racing to be first.