Richard Branson is finally getting his trip to space on Sunday.
I’ve been waiting for Branson, an irreverent 70-year-old British billionaire who leads the galaxy of virgin companies. In 2004, he founded Virgin Galactic to provide adventurous tourists with rocket-propelled planes to the edge of space.
At that time, he thought that commercial services would start in a couple of years. Instead, nearly 17 years have passed. Virgin Galactic says it still needs to carry out three test flights, including Sunday’s, before it’s ready to pay passengers.
Mr. Branson will be the crew member on this flight. His job is to evaluate the cabin experience for future customers.
When is the flight and how can I see it?
The flight will take off on Sunday morning from Spaceport America, New Mexico, about 180 miles south of Albuquerque.
Virgin broadcasts flight coverage Starting at 9am Eastern Standard Time Stephen Colbert hosting the live stream..singer Khalid will play a new song After the crew landed, SpaceX founder Elon Musk suggested He may appear..
What is a Virgin Galactic spaceplane, and what does it do?
A type of rocket-powered aircraft called SpaceShipTwo is about the same size as an executive jet. In addition to the two pilots, there are four in the cabin. This particular SpaceShipTwo is named VSS Unity.
To get off the ground, Unity is carried by larger planes to an altitude of about 50,000 feet. There, Unity is released and the rocket-powered aircraft motor ignites. Acceleration allows people on board to feel up to 3.5 times their normal weight on their way to altitudes above 50 miles.
At the top of the arc, the occupant can get out of the seat and experience weightlessness for about four minutes. Of course, they don’t really escape gravity. The downward attraction of the Earth, 50 miles above it, is basically as strong as it is on the ground. Rather, passengers fall at the same pace as the surrounding planes.
The two tail booms behind the spaceplane rotate to a “feather” configuration that creates more drag and stability, allowing the plane to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere more gently. This configuration makes SpaceShipTwo more like a badminton shuttlecock that always falls with its pointed side down, rather than an airplane.
Even so, the force felt by passengers on the way down is greater than on the way up, reaching six times gravity.
When the plane returns to the atmosphere, the tail boom spins down and the plane glides until landing. The entire flight can take less than 2 hours.
Who are the crew members on board?
The pilots are David Mackay and Michael Masucci.
In addition to Branson, three Virgin Galactic employees will assess what the future paid customer experience will look like. They are Beth Moses, Chief of the Astronauts. Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer. Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government and Research Operations. Bandla will also conduct scientific experiments provided by the University of Florida.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Spaceplane Flight: How to Watch
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