Virgin Galactic is Back in the Space Race

Virgin Galactic is unveils the second iteration of SpaceShipTwo, its shuttle designed to bring tourists on sub-orbital space flights.

The space tourism project was dealt a major blow after an in-air explosion killed one of the company’s pilots on a test flight in 2014.

Virgin’s CEO Richard Branson questioned continuing the project.

Most of the changes that we made were planned before the accident,” said Will Pomerantz, Vice President of Special Projects at Virgin Galactic.

The road to redesign hasn’t been a smooth one for Virgin Galactic.

After the accident, Virgin made a point to transition quickly to in-house operations.

Virgin isn’t the only company investing big in space-travel, and not everyone trying to get to space is on the same mission.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX project and Blue Origin, brainchild of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, are aiming to make space flight for humans and cargo affordable with reusable rockets.

Virgin stands alone in its focus on space tourism for the ultra-wealthy, which makes their risky choices all the more questionable.

Still, keeping in mind NASA spends upwards of $70 million with each astronaut it sends to space, Virgin’s tickets are relatively cheap, if not out of reach for almost everyone on the planet.

In a press release yesterday, Virgin said its attempt to build a commercial-friendly spaceshipIsn’t a raceand that it’sCommitted to being thorough in our testing”-but it was testing that led to the deadly failure in 2014.

The total number of human beings who have ever been to space as of today is 552.According to Richard Branson, 800 people have already bought tickets to fly with Virgin Galactic.

The question remains as to whether Virgin Galactic will be the first to bring civilians into outer space-and how many more deaths it might take.

 

Source – Wired