Space tourism close: Virgin Galactic conducts second VSS Unity test flight

Suborbital flight

Today, every person with an average income is free to take a vacation at his own expense and go to almost any country in the world, choosing an affordable mode of transport. A few hours on the plane - and now you are in New York, Tokyo or Buenos Aires. But there is such a wonderful place that very few travelers have managed to visit until now. And this despite the fact that it is located only a hundred kilometers from you. This place is shaved of our planet.

The deepest silence, black bottomless space, shining Sun and incomparable beauty views of the earth's surface ... Many of us dreamed of seeing the Earth from Space, but few will manage to do it. Space tourism, which began to develop at the end of the 20th century, is now in its infancy and cannot satisfy the needs of everyone. However, the inaccessibility of space flights for ordinary citizens is connected not so much with technical as with financial problems.

An expensive but unforgettable trip

You can go on a space tour in a few months using the services of Space Adventures, which has 16 years of experience in the development of space tourism. Why so few? Due to technical reasons and still existing agreements with Roskosmos, on the basis of which flights are made, and on board the ship you can only take one tourist at a time. However, starting in 2020, the company plans to carry out flights into orbit on American ships. But the most important thing is, of course, the price. A month's grafting in orbit will cost you at least $ 60 million with access to open space.

Suborbital flights

Yes, such travels are affordable only for millionaires, and besides, eccentric millionaires who, instead of sitting in an easy chair of cozy offices and sipping a smoke from Cuban cigars, always start crazy projects. A cheaper and simpler option can be offered by Virgin Galactic. "Only" for 250 thousand dollars you will be sent on a suborbital flight lasting 2.5 hours, of which six or seven minutes you can spend in a state of real weightlessness, and at the same time enjoy fantastic views of the Earth from a height of 110 kilometers.

Virgin Galactic flights are not only less expensive, but also less hassle, at least the requirements for tourists are not as strict as when flying the MKC. You sit down the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft attached to the booster aircraft and ascend to an altitude of 15 km, after which the undocking is performed. The spacecraft's jet engines are turned on, and the apparatus rushes like an arrow into the stratosphere. Then the engines are turned off and the spacecraft begins a smooth return journey to Earth.

Something similar is promised by the familiar Space Adventures, only even cheaper. Instead of an overclocking aircraft, the project involves using a carrier rocket with a module docked to it. The rocket starts, reaches the boundary of the Cosmos, where the capsule is disconnected with passengers, who return to Earth like real astronauts with the help of parachutes and inflatable pillows. The total flight time is only one hour, for which you will have to shell out 110 thousand US dollars.

To balloon orbit

There are other similar projects using rockets and aircraft. For example, the American company Space Perspective for 125 thousand dollars plans to send tourists to the borders of space in giant balloons filled with helium. More than 40 kilometers, the balloon is unlikely to be able to rise, nevertheless, the impressions received from the flight promise to be unforgettable. Having risen to a height of 30-40 km, you will see the black abyss of the Cosmos, and bright stars, and the smooth bend of the Earth in the bluish haze of the atmosphere. No roar of jet engines, no shaking and overloading the seat. Health restrictions are the most minimal, only silence and romance.

Approximately two hours before dawn, with a group of eight people, you sit in a sealed pod with an all-round view, take your seat and buckle up. After a short briefing, a huge ball of polyethylene, ready to soar into the predawn sky, gently lifts off the ground and begins its flight to the borders of eternal cold and darkness. You fly slowly, without jolts, noise and vibration at a speed of 20-25 km per hour. In about an hour and a half, the balloon swollen to the size of a football field reaches the specified height and begins to drift. You look into the black bottomless sky, at unusually bright stars and see how the Sun begins to rise in a fiery semicircle on the edge of the Earth, illuminating the crevice of the Grand Canyon.

After a few hours, the pilot opens a special valve, helium rushes out, and the balloon slowly begins its way back to the ground. You have nothing to worry about, because thanks to the parachute and the skill of the pilot, you will land on the same platform from which you started your journey. And even if you do not experience weightlessness, but this is not so important, believe that its feeling is simply nothing compared to the admiration for the beauty and fragility of the blue ball, soaring in the endless expanses of the Cosmos, which we call our home. True, Space Perspective has not yet reached real flights with passengers, but if test flights go according to plan, it will be possible to buy a ticket to the stratosphere of our planet already in 2024.

Space tourism is expensive but more than impressive

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Japanese startup is working on a manned suborbital spacecraft

Render of the future spaceplane

When talking about the private space sector, one of its most ambitious and exciting destinations is space tourism. Between SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic's offerings for suborbital flights, flights to the moon and even Mars, there are several smaller companies vying for the pie of this market.

One such company is PD AeroSpace, a Japanese startup based in Nagoya, an aerospace technology developer focused on providing space launch, intercontinental and suborbital mission services in the near future. For these purposes, a unique spaceplane is now being developed, which should begin to carry tourists by 2023.

At the moment, 11 employees of the firm are working on an unmanned smaller version of this spaceplane in the city of Hekinan in the Japanese prefecture of Aichi. As soon as they finish this work, the device will have to rise to an altitude of 100 km - the so-called "Karman line", which is the official boundary of space.

A scaled-up version of SpaceShipOne, the first commercial vehicle capable of reaching space and landing thereafter.

PD AeroSpace's history began in 2004, when a ship created by Scaled Composites LLC won the $ 10 million Ansari X Prize. This inspired Shinji Ogawa, 48, to set up his own private commercial firm. As he recently said in an interview with The Japan Times: “We would like to open up a new space age (with a spaceplane). Space has the power to attract people. "

After testing the scaled-down version, PD Aerospace is going to build a full-size version of the spaceplane, which will be able to lift 2 pilots and 6 passengers to an altitude of 110 km. The ticket price is estimated at 17 million yen or $ 153 thousand per seat.

According to the firm's plan, the spaceplane's engine will rely on a new combination of jet and rocket engines: as altitude rises, it will switch from air mode to solid-propellant pulse detonation engine. This will allow the spaceplane itself to take off from the airport and ascend into space.

What are the prospects for space tourism and when will every tourist be able to see their home planet from a height of several tens or even hundreds of kilometers. What kind...

For the first time in history, NASA has launched a new effort to enable NASA personnel to fly on upcoming commercial suborbital space missions. NASA's Flight Opportunities program has successfully collaborated with new commercial suborbital transport systems to carry payloads into space for short periods of microgravity time. In addition, the Fly On Air program recently unveiled a challenge that allows non-NASA explorers to offer to escort their payloads into suborbital space.

The Suborbital Crew (SubC) office of the NASA Commercial Crew Program will now lay the foundation for NASA personnel flights on commercial suborbital space transport systems. SubC's mission is to conduct a system qualification or safety assessment to enable NASA astronauts, chief investigators, and other NASA personnel to take advantage of these unique capabilities. After qualification, NASA plans to acquire positions in commercial suborbital space transport systems for use by NASA.

“We've seen how the industry can develop innovative crew transportation systems that meet NASA safety requirements and standards,” said Kathy Luders, Associate Administrator of Intelligence and Human Operations at NASA Headquarters. "We will now look at a new way of enabling NASA personnel to fly commercial suborbital space systems, considering factors such as flight experience and flight history."

Commercial suborbital space flight capabilities are expected to be more affordable, accessible and affordable than missions to the International Space Station, and could provide NASA with additional commercial human space missions for activities such as testing and qualifying spacecraft equipment. flight, human-centered microgravity research, and additional training opportunities for astronauts and other NASA personnel. The agency has developed an intensive, comprehensive training program for astronauts and astronaut candidates, and the space transport services of suborbital crews could provide even more training opportunities for NASA astronauts, engineers, scientists, operators and trainers.

The last time NASA astronauts flew on suborbital missions was at the dawn of American space flight to Project Mercury and the X-15 hypersonic research program. Today, the industry prepares to offer suborbital flights as a service, and NASA wants to become a buyer.

“Suborbital human spaceflight has the potential to provide NASA with a remarkable way to meet the agency's needs and continue our efforts to provide a robust economy in space,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA headquarters. “It is noteworthy that NASA funds were not used to develop suborbital vehicles, but we can participate in the market as a buyer. The US aerospace industry is proving once again that it is technically and financially capable of developing safe, reliable and cost-effective space systems. ”

One of the initial steps for SubC is to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and commercial suborbital space transportation providers to define an approach to the systems qualifications of NASA personnel, as well as to identify specific NASA aspirations.

NASA is seeking responses to an associated Request for Information (RFI) to communicate the agency's planning for space crew transport systems and plans to host an industry forum, details of which will be announced via an upgrade to RFI.

NASA has established the Commercial Crews Program to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station to low-Earth orbit and has contracted Boeing and SpaceX to develop space transportation systems that launch American astronauts onto American rockets from the American earth. The first test flight with NASA astronauts, the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, commenced on May 30, 2020. The NASA Commercial Crew Program is based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Virgin Galactic announced the successful completion of the second test flight of the VSS Unity spacecraft. As part of the test, the company tested how well the device copes with descent and subsequent landing on the ground. After a successful test, the company's shares have risen in price by 4% and are now worth $ 15.25 per share.

The spacecraft was lifted to an altitude of about 15 kilometers above the ground using the White Knight Two carrier aircraft, also known as VMS Eve. After climbing, the spacecraft was launched into free flight at a speed of over 1000 kilometers per hour. The VSS Unity pilots performed several maneuvers and successfully landed the craft at Spaceport America, located in the US state of New Mexico.

According to company representatives, after checking the data collected during the test, the next phase of testing will begin. Within its framework, flights using rocket engines will be carried out.

“I am delighted with the team's work to successfully complete today's test flight. This was an important test, after which we can begin preparing the aircraft for real flights, ”said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic.

The VSS Unity spacecraft will be used for "space" travel, during which people will be able to experience weightlessness and see the Earth against the background of black space. The ship will be able to take on board up to 6 passengers at a time, each of whom will pay about $ 250,000.

VSS Unity commercial flights are slated to launch in 2020. The company promises to its shareholders that the first profit will be received as early as 2021.

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What rules can there be, besides the rules established by the pikabu itself :)

The price of a cheap sports car - the Arabs, encrusting the most expensive cars with the most expensive stones with fat, will look at this price tag like a ticket on a bus. Against the background of 40 million for a space on the ship to the ISS, this is little more than nothing.

ISS - full weightlessness, orbit, views of the Earth, weeks or months.

Here is a suborbital flight. Time in zero gravity is calculated in minutes. And, in principle, it is not much different from the already existing "weightless" flights in conventional airplanes, which achieve a short-term effect by a sharp rise and then a free fall.

I think this is all nonsense. There will be those who want to show off and call themselves an "astronaut", but this hype will pass quickly. Suborbital tourism has no future. And this model is not capable of achieving orbital.

If they start using their Stratolaunch, maybe, but it's all muddy. And the time is limited. When the heavyweights from SpaceX and Blue Origin, with full-fledged orbital rockets, catch up with space tourism, this whole project can immediately be thrown into a landfill.

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