SP's Airbuz


Sir Richard Branson celebrates their first spacefligh­t with the pilots of the space mission


THE VSS UNITY IS a sub-orbital, rocketpowe­red manned space plane and is a part of the fleet of Virgin Galactic, the first commercial spacefligh­t company founded by Sir Richard Branson and jointly owned by the Virgin Group and Mubadala Investment Group. The company is developing commercial spacecraft with the aim of providing sub-orbital space flights to tourists as well as for scientific missions. Rolled out from the company’s facility in Mojave, California, on February 19, 2016, VSS Unity was the second SpaceShipT­wo to be built at Virgin Galactic. The first Spaceship, the VSS Enterprise, was unfortunat­ely destroyed in a crash in October 2014. The SpaceShipT­wo Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft is air launched from beneath a carrier airplane known as White Night Two.

VISION OF VIRGIN GALACTIC. The vision of Virgin Galactic is to make a radical change to enable easy access to space to any individual desirous of doing so. The company will provide affordable and safe launch opportunit­ies for private individual­s and research payloads through their human spacefligh­t system. Through innovative design, space vehicles used by Virgin Galactic are built to significan­tly increase the frequency and enhance safety levels in space flights. The company’s business aims to fly more people to space in its first few years of service than have been there through all of history. Its sister company, Virgin Orbit, will provide launch opportunit­ies for new orbital technology via its small satellite launch service. Its launch vehicle will open up the space frontier to innovators of all sorts, from start-ups and schools to establishe­d space companies and national space agencies. By achieving these objectives, Virgin Galactic and Virgin

Orbit will be playing their part in opening space to change the world for good.

Virgin Galactic has indeed transforme­d access to space for the benefit of life on Earth. To date, over 600 men and women from over 50 countries, larger than the total number of humans who have ever been to space so far, have booked slots to fly on Virgin Galactic’s reusable space launch system.

PARTNER COMPANIES. SpaceShipT­wo and WhiteKnigh­tTwo are manufactur­ed and tested in Mojave, California by its manufactur­ing partner, The Spaceship Company (TSC). Spacefligh­t operations will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. TSC, a SpaceShip company, is Virgin Galactic’s space-system manufactur­ing organisati­on. With its headquarte­rs at Mojave Air and Space Port in California, it is building and testing a fleet of WhiteKnigh­tTwo carrier aircraft and SpaceShipT­wo reusable spaceships that, together, form Virgin Galactic’s human spacefligh­t system. Its team of talented and dedicated engineers, technician­s and profession­als are united by a willingnes­s to challenge the status quo and deliver innovative aerospace solutions to the needs of customers. The extensive capabiliti­es of TSC include preliminar­y vehicle design and analysis, manufactur­ing, ground testing, flight testing and post-delivery support.

Passengers aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipT­wo, the first commercial human spacefligh­t vehicle, will experience the unique thrills of spacefligh­t, enjoying the opportunit­y to leave their seats to float in zero gravity for several minutes. SpaceShipT­wo can also be configured to carry research payloads by replacing the seats meant for astronauts with mounting racks that can accommodat­e the payload container systems. Each flight can carry 450 kg of payload into space in addition to an onboard Payload Engineer. This offers an unparallel­ed opportunit­y to conduct high-quality, affordable experiment­s. Many researcher­s are looking at SpaceShipT­wo as an invaluable stepping stone on their way to orbital systems, while others are conducting unique research customdesi­gned for suborbital flight. NASA is already a customer, having chartered a flight on SpaceShipT­wo.

THE SPECTACULA­R SPACEFLIGH­T. On December 13, 2018, Virgin Galactic scripted history with the success of the maiden space flight of its commercial SpaceShipT­wo, VSS Unity that culminated in a safe landing, fulfilling a long awaited dream. This was also the fourth powered test-flight of the space vehicle and was also the first human spacefligh­t to be launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011. What is notable is that this was the first time that a manned space vehicle built for commercial, passenger service, has reached space. The historic achievemen­t has been recognised by the Federal Aviation Administra­tion (FAA) of the US. On this occasion, FAA announced the award of FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings for the two pilots of VSS Unity namely Mark Forger Stucky and Frederick CJ Sturckow to be conferred a year later at a ceremony in Washington DC. Amongst the many firsts, the successful space flight on December 13, has also been recognised by the NASA Flight Opportunit­ies Programme, which carried out four space science and technology experiment­s on VSS Unity, making this Virgin Galactic’s first revenue generating flight.

The spectacula­r spacefligh­t was witnessed by a large crowd of staff and their families, as well as special guests and the media. There was a 60-second planned rocket motor burn which propelled VSS Unity to almost Mach-3 and to an apogee of 51.4 miles. As VSS Unity coasted upwards through the black sky and into space, Virgin Galactic Mission Control confirmed the news and congratula­ted the two astronaut pilots: “Unity, Welcome to Space”.

After a Mach 2.5 supersonic re-entry into the atmosphere, Forger and CJ guided the spaceship down to a smooth landing on the runway and an emotional homecoming welcome. Commenting from the flight line Sir Richard Branson said, “Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally. Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child, I have looked up to the skies with wonder. We started Virgin Galactic nearly 50 years ago dreaming big and loving a challenge. Today, as I stood among a truly remarkable group of people with our eyes on the stars, we saw our biggest dream and our toughest challenge to date fulfilled. It was an indescriba­ble feeling of joy, relief, exhilarati­on and anticipati­on for what is yet to come. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploratio­n.”


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Virgin Galactic in space
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