British billionaire Richard Branson arrived at Spaceport America in New Mexico on Sunday for his test flight aboard his Virgin Galactic passenger rocket plane VSS Unity. The test flight got delayed by one and a half hours due to a tropical storm but all six members of the crew are ready for their trip to the edge of space.
Indian member in the crew
The British billionaire Branson will travel with Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, who will control the spacecraft’s ignition and shut-off. They will also ‘activate the vehicle’s “feathered” tail maneuver’ for the spacecraft’s re-entry into the Earth, according to Reuters.
Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, Colin Bennett, Virgin Galactic’s lead operations engineer and research operations and government affairs vice president Sirisha Bandla will accompany Branson aboard VSS Unity.
In what is being seen as a beginning step towards a new era of space tourism, Branson with six other employees of Virgin Galactic Holding Inc will take off from a base in New Mexico aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel which will soar 80 km above New Mexico. The launch of the VSS Unity rocket plane will mark Virgin Galactic Holding Inc’s 22nd test flight of its SpaceShipTwo system. This is also its fourth mission with a crew beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
The VSS Unity will carry two pilots and four ‘mission specialists’ – one of whom is Richard Branson. The delay in the launch, which is set to take off from New Mexico’s state-owned Spaceport of America, located near the New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences, was pushed back owing to the overnight thunderstorms. Virgin Galactic did not roll out its rocket plane due to issues which arose due to the storms, the company told news agency Reuters.
VSS Unity which is attached to specially designed twin-fuselage carrier jet VMS Eve (named after the billionaire’s late mother) will detach at an altitude of 50,000 feet. Following this, Unity’s rocket engine will power to send the spaceplane into space some 55 miles high where the crew is supposed to experience 4 minutes of microgravity. The craft will shift into re-entry mode after nearing the peak of its climb and glide back into a runway landing at the spaceport.
The entire flight time, from takeoff to landing, will take approximately 90 minutes.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will also be present at Spaceport America for the test flight.
Virgin Atlantic via its official Twitter handle said that live streaming of the event will be available for viewers at http://www.virgingalactic.com/ and the event will also be simultaneously broadcast on Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook channels.