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Virgin Galactic turns to the Israeli market

The Israeli company Galactic Dream Lines will exclusively represent Virgin Galactic's suborbital space flights that will probably begin in 2010. According to the company's founder, several Israeli millionaires were interested, none of them paid the advance to take a place in history, and also: how the company deals with the accident The first that occurred during the spacecraft test on the ground

Spaceport America in New Mexico, home to Virgin Galactic's fleet of aircraft. Courtesy of Virgin Galactic
Spaceport America in New Mexico, home to Virgin Galactic's fleet of aircraft. Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

The Galactic Dream Lines company, owned by the Israeli entrepreneur Eliron Yaron, received yesterday (Sunday) from Virgin Galactic the franchise to sell commercial space flights to Israelis. Virgin Galactic, a subsidiary of the Virgin Global Group owned by Sir Richard Branson, will begin operating commercial flights into space at a cost of $200 per ticket starting in 2009 or 2010 (depending on the successful completion of a series of test flights).

At the press conference held at Beit Sokolov, the Chief Operating Officer of Virgin Galactic, Alex Thai, the Director of Space Flight Marketing, Caroline Wincher and Aliron Yaron, participated. The journalists watched films describing the spacecraft as well as the planned launch process.

Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 following Branson's decision to operate commercial spaceflight safely and economically. The spacecraft, Spaceship 1, the invention of aircraft designer Bret Rotan, successfully completed two manned flights to the edge of space and won Rotan the X-PRIZE, a prize of 10 million dollars and a contract from Branson to build 5 second generation aircraft (Spaceship 2) and two motherships - planes that will go up the spaceship to altitude 19 km from which only the spaceship will take off with its fuel forces.

How did you determine the amount, 200 thousand dollars? It's an interesting question, simply, until recently, Russia charged the space tourists who brought the International Space Station an amount of 20 million dollars, in light of the demand, it recently increased it to 30, but it didn't matter to Branson, who decided that his space tourists would pay XNUMX percent of the amount, Both due to the fact that this is a suborbital flight and due to Branson's desire to increase demand, in order to start the space tourism industry.

Alex Thai, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Virgin Galactic is one of the most outstanding pilots in the history of the British Air Force and holds 11 world records in flight, including the fastest circumnavigation of the world both westward and eastward. From the age of 30 he became the youngest captain in the Virgin airline company. He built the flight plan for Spaceship 2 and he will even fly it on its first commercial flight where all the seats will be occupied by Sir Richard Branson and his family. Thai said that Virgin Galactic's space tourism program is a step towards the tremendous development of the space sector and the entry of more commercial entities into a field that has so far been the property of countries.

In a conversation with the knowledge website, Tai says that the company purchased two mother planes that will raise the spacecraft to an altitude of 19 kilometers and five spacecraft that will arrive with six passengers and two crew members into space: "Our goal is to fly 50 thousand people in the first decade of the company's activity, this does not scratch even one percent of those who can to afford, not to mention that every year 36 thousand new millionaires are added. We estimate that there are approximately 8.7 million dollar millionaires in the world (who have a million dollars or more in the bank). Even if only 80 percent of them want to fly, this is over 36 people, and we don't have the capacity to send them. Every year 7,500 thousand new millionaires are added, and the maximum we can fly will be XNUMX per year so we cannot deal with those new millionaires.

You're going to pilot the first commercial ship, what does that do to you?

"I am very excited. It's an amazing privilege, I trained in the British Army and flew on executive planes like Gulf Stream, then the French Virgin – I was one of the youngest captains, 30 years old in total. I have 10 thousand flight hours, and I have 11 world records in the field of aviation - the fastest flight around the world (east and west), the fastest crossing of Australia. I am very confident that we will have the right technology and the systems and operations will also be safe. I am convinced that all our flights will be safe. A rifle can be safe, if it is in the right hands and vice versa - dangerous if it is in the wrong hands, and so is an airplane and a spaceship, you need to know who operates them. Branson and Rotan entrust their lives not only to me - I am part of a group that includes those who participate in the production, maintenance, and operation of the motherships and spacecraft.

What does your role as COO entail?

"Among other things, my responsibility is to hire the workers - pilots, engineers, responsible for training, to start flights into space. We have already hired the chief pilot, the chief test pilot, the chief training pilot. Another important role of mine is to oversee the design and development of Spaceship 2, as well as the production and the license to operate. Among other things, I am the main contact person with the FAA - the US Federal Aviation Authority, which also opened an office for commercial space flights. It is such a new field that they have not yet finished building its laws and regulations, which are intended, among other things, to protect our investors. In addition, I am in contact with the government of the state of New Mexico, which built the Spaceport America with its own money, with an investment of 200 million dollars. We need an isolated place from which we can take off, it's not a question of the length of the runway - for that Ben Gurion Airport was also suitable, but an area where there is not a lot of civil aviation activity, and where we can be independent in air surveillance over it without disturbing anyone, this is due to its proximity to an experimental area Aviation and missiles of the US Army.

What is meant by investor protection?

What is certain is that one day an accident may occur. If we want the tourism industry in general and Virgin Galactic in particular to survive, we will have to be honest and promise that we will do everything to maintain the safety rules and thus we will survive. We will not survive if we are not honest or if the legislation is not suitable for our operating conditions. From what appears, we will be required to tell our customers that space flights are a dangerous matter, and even calculate the level of risk for them. If the public understands that we are honest and fair, we will survive the first accident because we did everything to minimize the risks and inform the public of the true level of risk"

What about the competition?

We promote competition. The reason why Virgin Atlantic is the leader in the connection between London and New York is successful is that the competition between us and Virgin Atlantic for British Airways and American Airlines forces all companies to improve. And customers enjoy better service. We currently have no competition at all. There are those who want to develop rockets and spacecraft - including the European Astrium and the American Rocketplane, but they are developing the technology and may also produce it in the future, but they do not operate it and have no experience in operating it. We want to be operators, not developers or manufacturers. If they develop good tools that will be better than Spaceship 2, we will buy them and use them. The same reason that Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Airlines have both Boeing and Airbus aircraft. We would welcome an operator, at the moment there is no other such one.

What are your requirements from the pilots?

We want to choose the best of the best, we want the elite crew to fly our planes. They should be good at the profession and also physically fit. In the first phase we will need six pilots. Eventually when we reach full fleet size we will need 30 pilots. By the way, we choose our pilots from among the best who work among the five companies

What about an orbital flight?

Suborbital flights are of course the first step. We would like to find a way to get from point to point on the Earth at high speed, as well as to reach a low orbit around the Earth. We talked with Robert Bigelow who asked us to operate the space hotels they are developing, we have already approached Elon Musk from Space X to use his rocket, Falcon, to bring the passengers to the space hotel.

What do you think about the Israeli audience?

Israelis are adventurers, they are very good at tourism. They have been around the world for many decades, and they are the natural people to try our product. We bring a natural product to Israel. Something the Israelis will love.

In conclusion, Thai says that although commercial flights into space are a new industry, "but we must not forget that we have 50 years of space flight experience behind us, 100 years of aviation, and we also use the third most powerful supercomputer in the world, at NASA's Ames Center, to develop the spacecraft. Tai also emphasized that in case of engine failure, launching from the air gives an advantage over launching from the ground. From any altitude where you get stuck due to not starting an engine, you can glide to the airport from which the spacecraft took off.

The head of space flight sales at Virgin Galactic: Israelis will receive special treatment

Caroline Wincher, head of space pilot sales at Virgin Galactic expressed her enthusiasm for the Israeli entrepreneur Aliron Yaron, and said that Virgin sees the Israeli market as an important market, since Israel is known for technological innovation and pioneering, and promised that the future Israeli astronauts will receive special treatment when they book their flights Their space through Galactic Dream Lines. Wincher also added that Virgin Galactic's ambition is to make space tourism an integral part of the tourism industry.

Will people be willing to pay $200 for four minutes in space?

Wincher: "There are 8 million millionaires in the world who can afford the amount. The four minutes in space are the icing on the cake. For the payment, the tourists will receive three days of training, including centrifuge training that will simulate the high G-force. Since the discontinuation of the Concorde flights, no one can purchase a ticket and fly at supersonic speed, and at altitude 19 km. We will ascend using the mother ship to this height and from there we will begin to soar into space, when we will reach a speed of Mach 30 4 seconds later. About half a minute later we will reach the height 100 km and the passengers will be able to float in the cabin and see the Earth on one side and the blackness of space on the other. After that, the flight down will begin, which will take about two and a half hours back to the origin base in New Mexico."

Some will say that while the millionaires are flying in space, a billion people have nothing to eat?

Wincher: "We also give back to society, those lucky enough to be able to fly for a fee will subsidize cargo flights and scientific experiments, and we will also use the developments we have opened for the spaceship and the plane to develop transatlantic flights at a speed that was not known until now (two hours from London to Sydney for example), as well as materials that will allow To save energy on the planet for the benefit of all its inhabitants and other contributions to society."

Aren't you afraid that the failure of the rocket that is supposed to be used by Spaceship 2 and which caused the death of three people at the test site will affect the public's desire to fly into space?

Wincher: "The accident happened at the Scaled Composite company, which is the subcontractor that builds the spacecraft fleet for us during an experiment. Even Brett Rutan referred to it as the equivalent of Apollo 1. It did not occur in the engine but when fuel was combined in some engine components. The Department of Health and Safety of the State of California is investigating the incident and if something needs to be changed in the design of the missile, we certainly will. We want to emphasize that the issue of safety is the most important, it is not for nothing that we did not specify the date for the start of the service, the intention is to perform hundreds of test flights of the mother plane and the spacecraft inside the atmosphere and many more dozens of forays into space as needed to ensure the highest level of safety. Moreover, the first flight is reserved for Charles Branson himself, his son, his daughter and possibly his mother, as well as Brett Rutan, the developer of the spaceship. Branson believes that he cannot sell a product to others if he does not try it himself, all the company's employees are required to go through training similar to those that space tourists will go through, for example I flew in a jet plane that simulates 15 seconds of zero gravity, and it was an amazing experience."

The Israeli space entrepreneur: There is interest, but no one has paid an advance yet

Aliron Yaron, the Israeli space entrepreneur who has been captivated by the magic of space travel since childhood, says that he hopes that the establishment of "Galactic Dream Lines" as the exclusive franchisee of marketing plane tickets to space will also help Israelis realize their dream of reaching space. "Today there are about 8,000 millionaires in Israel who are able to purchase plane tickets, and in addition to that in the future ticket prices will drop and thus more people will be able to fulfill their dreams" said Yaron.

Why do you think people want to fly into space? What do they get out of it?

"The basic and so common human desire, to fly into space, stems from many of the things that distinguish us as humans - the desire to fly, which has existed since the dawn of man, can only be realized in the weightlessness of space. The instinct of curiosity, which draws us to go to places we have not been, is expressed in space flight in the purest form, because it is an environment completely different from any environment we have ever been to. The nature of competitiveness, which makes people climb Everest or dive into the depths of the sea, makes many people not only want to go to space, but also to get there first, before the others. But it is amazing to prove that all the astronauts who flew into space in the past talk mainly about one moment - the moment when they first saw the Earth as a blue dot in the infinite blackness of space. All the people I've heard talk about their flight into space repeat that it was a moment that changed their lives forever, that made them understand in a completely different way that we all exist on the same blue dot, and that from space the differences and differences of opinion between us are dwarfed and become unimportant.

How do you see the future?

I have no doubt that in the next decades hotels will be built in space. So that it will be possible not only to fly into space, but also to "arrive" at its destination. In the future, wealthy couples will spend honeymoons in such hotels, which will offer, in addition to the most amazing view, also completely new types of sports, recreation and leisure activities, which can only exist without gravity. A normal tennis game, for example, will change completely when played in space, and each player will be able to "fly" up and down. A jacuzzi in zero gravity can also be a completely different matter than what we are familiar with. At the same time, we will see space flight being used for more business purposes, when a space plane will be able to transport passengers or cargo from coast to coast in the USA in less than an hour. In the more distant future, the human journey in space will also develop to the moon and later to other planets.

What about the share of Israelis in space tourism?

"Everyone knows that Israelis, especially young people, travel the world much more than other nationalities, especially in places that are considered the least safe and orderly. We are an adventurous nation, fond of innovations and technologies, and for us as those who live in an impossible security situation, situations that sometimes seem dangerous to the people of other countries make us mostly mock their cowardice. I have no doubt that the percentage of Israeli space tourists will be much higher than the percentage of Israelis in the world, there are many who can afford it, and the lower the price, the more there will be."


  1. It really sounds promising..but tens of billions of promising projects are buried in space!! And it doesn't seem like this time either it's going to be different according to the form of the announcements!
    I have a lot of respect for Branson for his daring.. I like how his head works and how he is not afraid to go into the wall with him without flinching!
    But in order to start traveling into space, you need a space engine that can only be built if a nuclear fusion mechanism is built that will serve as the basis of the engine and inexhaustible power...without that, it's a game of touching space and an intermediate stage until the real thing arrives!!

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