A holiday in outer-space may not be as far off as first thought, with Virgin Galactic unveiling the new sci-fi cabin where passengers will stay while gazing down on earth overnight.
Revealed for the first time during an online event, the incredible design shows how passengers will be able to travel 80km above earth, while enjoying “unrestricted astronaut float zone” within the cabin.
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin, said the cabin was designed “to allow thousands of people … to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely”.
The company unveiled the plans, which include individually sized reclining seats with “G-Force management” and automated mood lighting, during a virtual tour live-streamed to YouTube.
Virgin Galactic has given space fans their first look at the cabin of its rocket plane that will one day carry tourists to space. Picture: Virgin Galactic/The Spaceship Company/AFP.Source:AFP
Virgin Galactic also said the cabin included soft surfaces and window edges to allow passengers to float out of their seats unharmed.
There are plans for a large circular mirror which would allow customers to view themselves floating in zero gravity.
Twelve cameras will provide high-definition footage of the flight, while passengers will soak up views of Earth through the cabin’s 17 windows.
After the plans were announced, Sir Richard said: “When we created Virgin Galactic, we started with what we believed would be an optimal customer experience and then built the spaceship around it.
“We will continue with that ethos as we expand our fleet, build our operations and underpin Virgin Galactic’s position as the spaceline for Earth.
“This cabin has been designed specifically to allow thousands of people like you and me to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely – and that is incredibly exciting.”
Set up in 2004, Virgin Galactic aims to one day take paying tourists on suborbital flights roughly 80km above Earth’s surface.
The design features reclining seats and an ‘unrestricted astronaut float zone’. Picture: Virgin Galactic/The Spaceship Company/AFP.Source:AFP
Passengers will have the chance to float around in zero-gravity. Picture: Virgin Galactic/The Spaceship Company/AFP.Source:AFP
Its space plane SpaceShipTwo will carry six passengers and two pilots on zero-gravity flights lasting a few minutes before returning and landing at Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Following the stream, Virgin Galactic also released an augmented reality mobile app showcasing the cabin design and spaceflight experience.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: “The spaceship cabin interior will both facilitate and elevate a uniquely profound and transformational journey for the thousands who will fly.
“We are particularly proud to be able to share this latest milestone with millions around the world, particularly during these unusual times.”
Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson demonstrates a spacewear system. Picture: Don Emmert/AFP.Source:AFP
Tuesday’s event marked the first public tour of SpaceShipTwo, which flew to the edge of space for the first time in 2018.
Following years of delays and setbacks, Virgin Galactic has not said when it plans to launch its first flight carrying paying customers.
Branson, known for frequently exaggerating how quickly his firm can get tourists into space, initially predicted the maiden flight would launch by 2009.
But the date has been repeatedly pushed back due to technical problems.
In 2016, the late Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo craft, called VSS Unity, after the first SpaceShipTwo craft VSS Enterprise crashed during tests in 2014, killing one of its pilots.
A successful maiden flight finally took place in mid-December 2018.
Unlike most space flight companies, Virgin Galactic will not use a rocket to launch tourists to space.
Instead, SpaceShipTwo will head to orbit strapped to an enormous carrier plane called White Knight Two.
Virgin Galactic launched its first flight to the edge of space in 2018, reaching more than 80km above the Earth’s surfaceSource:Supplied
At around 80km above the Earth’s surface – the border of outer space as defined by NASA – SpaceShipTwo will detach from its mothership.
Within seconds, the space plane will engage its rocket motor and fly at a near-vertical angle into suborbital space, hitting three and a half times the speed of sound.
After the rocket motor has fired for around a minute, the pilots will safely shut it down, giving riders a few minutes of weightlessness.
SpaceShipTwo will then swivel around and return to Earth, landing like a commercial airliner on the runway at Spaceport America.
SpaceShipTwo will be carried most of the way up by a giant plane called White Knight TwoSource:Supplied
With a hefty price tag of $A315,000 a ticket, the 90-minute flight is aimed at wealthy celebrities and thrillseekers.
Branson has said that “ultimately” he would like to see the price fall as low as $A55,300 over the next decade.
Virgin Galactic is up against fierce competition in the private space race from firms such as Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, Blue Origin poses the biggest threat to Branson’s firm, having also pledged to carry tourists on suborbital fights.
VIRGIN GALACTIC KEY DATES
2004: Branson founds Virgin Galactic and says the first launch will take place in 2007.
2007: Testing of SpaceShipTwo but three workers die in an explosion during the event. The $250m spaceport, Spaceport America is agreed to be built in New Mexico.
2008: Sir Richard says the first voyage will take place within 18 months.
2009: Sir Richard says that flights will take place from Spaceport America within two years.
2010: Virgin Galactic hire Nasa’s chief of staff, George Whitesides, as its new chief executive.
2014: Sir Richard predicts the first commercial flight will take place in early 2015. A fatal accident occurs during a test launch of SpaceShipTwo.
2016: Test flights of SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, continue.
2018: VSS Unity coasted through the black sky and into space, making history as the first human spaceflight to be launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011. SpaceShipTwo landed from her maiden spaceflight on December 13, 2018.
2019: On February 22, Virgin Galactic reached space for the second time in 10 weeks with three people on board, reaching three times the speed of light on the way up.
2019: Virgin Galactic drops a space rocket from custom Boeing 747 over California in first successful “launch” test on July 11
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission
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