Spacious windows are important when you’re in the space-tourism market. There are enough “astronaut float areas” combined with a host of cameras to offer one’s social media accounts — the better to impress friends. All of these are covered by Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. in the cabin of its VSS Unity, which it introduced Tuesday on a virtual media tour designed to invoke the same luxury aesthetic that Virgin Group sought for its commercial airlines, airport lounges, hotels and proposed cruise ships. Virgin Galactic considers its spaceship cabin the “centrepiece” of the experience it is offering to anyone who can afford tickets that cost $250,000 upwards.
The organization has said it plans to venture into space later this year for its first customers. Until that landmark, Virgin Galactic named a Walt Disney Co customer-experience veteran as its new chief executive last week and slowly ramped up marketing efforts as the ultimate destination for wealthy adventure seekers.
The VSS Unity is entering space not from a launchpad, but from a larger aircraft. The carrier plane lowers the spacecraft at or above 45,000 feet, and then ignites its rocket engine, propelling its two pilots and six passengers to an altitude of more than 68 miles above the Earth, theoretically “space” according to NASA. The long road to commercial flight dates back to 2004 when Branson formed Virgin Galactic.
Test Pilot Killed
Possibly the pioneer in the region, in October 2014, his dream was dealt a deadly setback when a test pilot was killed during a California flight. Over the next six years, the disaster told significant overhaul work. Yet financial difficulties prevailed. In 2018, Branson refused a planned investment of $1 billion from Saudi Arabia following the kingdom’s agents murdering US citizen and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Then, Branson agreed to take over the public business in a 2019 merger with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Inc. A special purpose transaction located in Palo Alto, California, or a “blank check” corporation that took a 49 per cent stake. Throughout the coming years, Virgin Galactic plans to fly five spaceships, and expand worldwide. But Branson isn’t the only milliardaire space dreaming of developing a flourishing space-tourism industry.
Founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, created Blue Origin to help accelerate private space exploration; and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technology Company is constructing a huge South Texas Starship. It is to fly astronauts to the moon and potentially would-be colonizers to Mars. Virgin Galactic plans to focus heavily on mood lighting, and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd, a product based in the UK. It has pioneered long-haul flights. Most of the lights turn off some times.
VSS Unity Cabin
The cabin of the VSS Unity has a dozen windows providing clear views of the Planet. Also,16 cameras taking both videos and still photographs as souvenirs. Seatback displays have astronaut-passenger flight data and a communications device to communicate with the pilots upfront. Such pilots should be able to recline passenger seats. This is in order to help them better control the gravity forces on ascent and re-entry. Also, can reach four times the surface of the Earth.
The depth, however, will be quite brief. During the 30-minute flight, customers will feel 10-15 minutes of weightlessness before the ship glides back into southern New Mexico. Yet when they return, there’ll be champagne and hors d’oeuvre awaiting them.