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More than a year after the crash of the spaceship 2, Virgin Galactic unveiled the new model of the spacecraft, which will take tourists to the edge of space

Virgin Galactic, owned by the tycoon Richard Branson, unveiled on Friday the new model of the spacecraft Spaceship 2, which at an estimated price of about 250,000 dollars for a single flight ticket, will in the future launch tourists to the edge of space at an altitude of more than 100 km "M. At the unveiling ceremony of the spaceship, it was revealed that its name, "Unity", was given to it by the scientist Stephen Hawking, who intends to be among the first astronauts to fly on it, if his medical condition allows it 

The new model of Spaceship 2 spacecraft, "Unity". Source: Virgin Galactic.
The new model of the Spaceship 2 spacecraft, "Unity". Source: Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic, owned by the tycoon Richard Branson, unveiled on Friday the new model of the spacecraft Spaceship 2, which at an estimated price of about 250,000 dollars for a single flight ticket, will in the future launch tourists to the edge of space at an altitude of more than 100 km "M. At the unveiling ceremony of the spaceship, it was revealed that its name, "Unity", was given to it by the scientist Stephen Hawking, who intends to be among the first astronauts to fly on it, if his medical condition allows it

Spaceship 2 is a suborbital spacecraft, that is, one that does not reach the speed and altitude of an orbit around the Earth, but only a little above the "Kerman Line" - 100 km above the surface of the earth, the official height that is recognized as the limit where outer space "begins" (although Even at this height there is an extremely thin atmosphere). It is twice the size of the Spaceship 1 spacecraft, the first private spacecraft to reach space in 2004. A single seat on the spacecraft is valued at about $250,000, and according to the company, hundreds of people have already ordered flight tickets from it.
The new spacecraft was built after its predecessor, the first model of Spaceship 2 called "Enterprise", crashed in October 2014 during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in California. The crash resulted in the death of one of the two test pilots, Michael Ellsbury, and the investigation of the accident revealed that it was caused by human error by the co-pilot, who prematurely activated a mechanism designed to provide drag and slow the spacecraft during re-entry into the atmosphere. However, the investigation report slammed the most criticism on the company that built the spacecraft for Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, for not giving enough importance to the human error factor, even though it knew about the danger of premature activation of the mechanism.

The Virgin Galactic company team together with the new spaceship. Source: Virgin Galactic.
The Virgin Galactic company team together with the new spaceship. Source: Virgin Galactic.

Unlike its predecessor, "Unity" was built not only as a technological demonstrator, but as the first spacecraft to operate commercially. The company emphasized that it will be a long time before the spacecraft can become operational, and that it must first complete an extensive series of experiments that will test the joint operation of all its components and the various stages of flight.

To reach space, the spacecraft will first be released from its mother plane, "White Knight 2", which will carry it up to an altitude of about 15 km. After release, Spaceship 2's rocket engine will accelerate it to a supersonic speed of Mach 3.5. After acceleration, the spacecraft will enter a cruise phase where the space tourists will be able to release themselves from their seats and float during several minutes of weightlessness. They will also be able to view the landscape of Earth and space through the many windows installed in the spacecraft. The spacecraft will then begin its re-entry into the atmosphere. Since its speed is not very high (compared to spacecraft such as the space shuttles), it does not need a heat shield. To slow down its speed, it uses the deceleration mechanism, which consists of a number of shelves that are raised to create a drag force and slow down the spaceship, for the takeoff and landing phase like a normal airplane.

The spacecraft will be able to carry up to eight passengers - six tourists and two crew members who will fly it. This is a record number of astronauts in one vehicle, and only the American space shuttles could do this before, before they were grounded in 2011.

Richard Branson's toddler grandson educates the new spaceship using his milk bottle. Source: Virgin Galactic.
Richard Branson's toddler grandson educates the new spaceship using his milk bottle. Source: Virgin Galactic.

During the unveiling ceremony of the spaceship, a pre-recorded speech was played by the scientist Stephen Hawking, who is known for his contribution to the study of space and the universe. Hawking opened his words with his personal ambition to reach space: "I always dreamed of flying into space, but for many years I thought it was just that - a dream. Confined to Earth and a wheelchair, how could I experience the splendor of space, except through imagination and my work in theoretical physics. I would never have thought that I would have the opportunity to see our beautiful planet from space, or gaze out at the infinity beyond. It was the domain of the astronauts, the lucky few who got to experience the wonder and thrill of spaceflight."

Hawking also told about how Branson invited him to fly into space on the private spacecraft: "Fortunately, I found a soulmate in Richard Branson. During a radio interview, I once said that my ultimate ambition was to fly into space, but I thought no one would take me. Following this, Richard called me to Lanker Island (an island in the British Virgin Islands that is owned by Branson - AK) to offer me a seat. I immediately said "yes". Since that day I have not changed my position, if I can go and if Richard still takes me, I will be very proud to fly in this spaceship".

Hawking added that "we are entering a new space age and I hope this will help create a new unity. Space exploration has always been a great unifier - we seem to be able to cooperate between nations in space in a way that we can only envy on Earth. Taking more and more passengers into space will allow them and us to see both outward and backward, but with a fresh perspective in both directions. It will help bring new meaning to our place on Earth and our responsibility as its agents, and will help us understand our place and our future in the cosmos, which is where I believe our ultimate destiny lies."

The field of space tourism began to grow rapidly in the last decade, and Virgin Galactic is not the only company that plans such flights. The most prominent among its competitors is the "Blue Origin" company, which plans to achieve this goal in a different way. Its spacecraft is launched on top of a rocket launcher, and in order to keep all the multi-use flight components, to reduce costs, it is developing a reusable launcher that is able to land back after launch, while the spacecraft itself lands using parachutes.

For news about Virgin Galactic's Spaceship 1 crash, October 2014

7 תגובות

  1. to the singularity
    According to my understanding, the more successful process is: planners try and succeed
    Gave the plans a try on the ground
    No need to fly into the air...
    The reason he flew the engine into the air is that he was under enormous pressure to demonstrate something working to show progress even in something. So he lifted the spaceship into the air with an engine that he knew did not have enough energy to carry out the mission!
    Just to show it flies.

  2. To me, this is how science and technology are done - you try until you succeed!
    And it's good to have a visionary like Branson (by the way, a known Israel hater) who is willing to invest his money and the money of his investors on the issue.
    Without people with a vision we would still be in the darkness of the Middle Ages (and maybe we are on our way back there according to the composition of the Knesset)

  3. I understand that the engine that flew Spaceship 1 can only fly a small spacecraft. Wouldn't it be more worthwhile for them to continue with a model similar to Spaceship 1, and fly only two passengers at a time?

  4. They have only one "small" problem and that is that they don't have a good enough engine... The previous spacecraft (the one that crashed) was supposed to reach an altitude of about 100 km after being launched from the mother plane (White Knight 2) which was flying at an altitude of 15 km when it launched the previous spacecraft. In several attempts made with the intended engine, they only managed to reach an altitude of 30 km with the spaceship before they ran out of fuel! In the last experiment (the one that crashed), they changed the type of solid fuel to another fuel, but that didn't help them much either, and then the plane also crashed. Although I'm quite interested in what's going on there, I haven't heard any breakthroughs regarding the engine.
    I have a strange impression that the honorable Mr. Branson has started a very ambitious project, and has already learned that there is a big problem with the engine, but because of his great self-respect (he has never failed) and after all the international noise and ringing he has made around this project, he does not know how to get out of the matter respectfully. And instead of burying the issue in a grave burial and saying "I failed". He drags the matter further and further until he might find an adequate solution, or people give up and then he buries the project.

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