Billionaires race to space – AOPA

Less than 600 people flew high enough to penetrate the limits of space. Hundreds more would line up, tickets in hand, for a flight over Virgin Galactic’s Unit spacecraft, one of three spacecraft built by private companies with paying customers in mind. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson may soon take his turn aboard VSS Unit, the aerial rocket developed from an original design by Burt Rutan. Virgin Galactic has announced that it has sold 600 tickets for a round-trip excursion from New Mexico that will include a few minutes of weightlessness.

A successful VSS Unit The test flight in May was followed in June by FAA approval to carry passengers on future flights. The company’s share price exploded on this news, although the long-term viability of a business model based on selling six-figure tickets in the space has not convinced all analysts. Virgin Galactic has not confirmed when Branson will board, although the company is planning three more test flights before the paid flights start.

“We are incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which met our stated flight test targets,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said on June 25. Press release. “The flight went perfectly and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system. Today’s FAA approval of our full commercial launch license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, gives us confidence as we conduct our first crewed test flight full this summer.

Amazon CEO and Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos has announced plans to launch on July 20, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and this month ad that his brother, Mark, will join him on this flight. Another seat on Blue Origin’s first crewed space launch claimed with $ 28 million Winning bid at a charity auction that drew 7,600 participants from 159 countries. (The winning bidder will be named later, Blue Origin said.)

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has sold a rocket aboard the Dragon spacecraft to fellow billionaire Jared Isaacman, a seasoned aviator who will lead an all-civilian crew on an orbital mission that aims to raise more than $ 200 million for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket have made three successful flights with NASA astronauts on board since the company made the first crewed flight to the International Space Station on May 30, 2020; they were the first to orbit from the United States since 2011. Isaacman and his Inspiration4 crew were training for their multi-day orbital mission, the first orbital flight of an entirely civilian crew, which they plan to launch “at the earliest” in September.

With billions of dollars spent to date on this flurry of commercial space superlatives, skeptical spectators I wonder how many flights will be filled with millionaires able to afford tickets priced at $ 200,000 or more (maybe a lot more) before the pace of the flight picks up enough to create something more like to an economical seat during a future rocket ride.

With room for six astronauts, the spacious, pressurized crew capsule designed by Blue Origin is environmentally controlled for comfort and each passenger is provided with a window seat.  The price of a ticket has not yet been announced.  Photo courtesy of Blue Origin.


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