Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Space Plane Flight: How to Watch

Richard Branson is finally getting his trip to space on Sunday.

It has been a very long wait for Mr. Branson, the irreverent, 70-year-old British billionaire who leads a galaxy of Virgin companies. In 2004, he founded Virgin Galactic to provide adventurous tourists with rides on rocket-powered planes to the edge of space and back.

At the time, he thought commercial service would begin in two to three years. Instead, close to 17 years have passed. Virgin Galactic says it still has three more test flights to conduct, including the one on Sunday, before it can be ready for paying passengers.

For this flight, Mr. Branson will be a member of the crew. His task is to evaluate the cabin experience for future customers.

The flight is scheduled to take off on Sunday morning from Spaceport America in New Mexico, about 180 miles south of Albuquerque.

The two tail booms at the back of the space plane rotate up to a “feathered” configuration that creates more drag and stability, allowing the plane to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere more gently. This configuration makes SpaceShipTwo more like a badminton shuttlecock, which always falls with the pointy side oriented down, than a plane.

Still, the forces felt by the passengers on the way down will be greater than on the way up, reaching six times the force of gravity.

Once the plane is back in the atmosphere, the tail booms rotate back down, and the plane will glide to a landing. The whole flight may take less than two hours.

The pilots are David Mackay and Michael Masucci.

In addition to Mr. Branson, three Virgin Galactic employees will evaluate how the experience will be for future paying customers. They are Beth Moses, the chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations. Ms. Bandla will also conduct a science experiment provided by the University of Florida.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*