Virgin Galactic calls it the Spaceship Enterprise. Last Thursday it had its second successful powered test flight, and today we present that test flight. If you remember the thrill of seeing fuselage mounted cameras showing you the point of view from the spacecraft as NASA rockets boosted astronauts into the great beyond, you’ll feel that same thrill again watching this videos.
The craft itself is designed to carry the first commercial passenger traffic to the edge of space, something NASA has designated LEO or “Low Earth Orbi”t. The engine was developed and built for SpaceShipTwo by the Sierra Nevada Corporation. It’s a hybrid propulsion system that uses nitrous oxide as an oxidizer and Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) as fuel. (In rocket parlance, a hybrid engine is one where the propellants are in two separate states of matter. In this case, the HTPB is a solid.) Made this way, the burn is very low emission compared to other rocket fuels, and the fuel itself is non-toxic.
“We couldn’t be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts and we are on track for a 2014 start of commercial service,” says Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson. “I can’t wait to get up there.”
They’re working on fitting the interiors of the craft for use by passengers, and it’s going to be a commercial service. It’s not for the faint of heart, though. Your first obstacle is the price tag – but if you’re interested in taking a trip to outer space yourself, and you have a spare $250,000, you can book your flight now.
Remember that this is the very first service being offered to the public, ever. We imagine the price will come down in twenty years if you can wait that long.
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