Virgin Galactic boss in space? Although earlier than Bezos, the altitude difference is 20 km

Forget lavish African safaris or Caribbean trips on private chartered ships. Space is fast becoming the new destination for the world’s rich and famous. The market for space tourism is expected to reach billions of dollars in the next few years.

Virgin Galactic boss in space? Although earlier than Bezos, the altitude difference is 20 km

July 2 – Forget luxury African safaris or Caribbean trips on private charters. Space is fast becoming the new destination for the world’s rich and famous. The market for space tourism is expected to reach billions of dollars over the next several years.

After years of delays and daunting setbacks, several companies are in various stages of registering passengers, completing test programs and even training a new generation of astronauts. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the “Iron Man of Silicon Valley,” has already launched a more powerful rocket. The company has included private astronaut flights in its plans, potentially putting as many as 20 ordinary people into orbit in the next few years. That’s more astronauts than during NASA’s Gemini program.

The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, announced after the 15th test of its autonomously controlled New Shepard spacecraft in April that founder Bezos will join his brother Mark Bezos on the July 20 anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing for the first manned spaceflight mission. Blue Origin announced Thursday that Wally Funk, 82, a member of the Mercury 13 program, will join the Bezos brothers and the winner of a $28 million auction for the opportunity to fly aboard the New Shepard suborbital spacecraft for its first manned flight. The name of the auction winner has not yet been announced.

Blue Origin, however, is not the first company to send ordinary people into space. Space tourism company Virgin Galaxy announced on Thursday that it is scheduled to make a manned test flight on July 11 and send its founder, Sir Richard Branson, into space. Virgin Galactic’s mission is called “Unity 22,” and Branson aims to beat Bezos to the punch and be first in space. I truly believe that space belongs to all of us,” Branson said in a statement. After more than 16 years of research, engineering development and testing, Virgin Galactic is at the forefront of a new commercial space industry that will open space to humanity and change the world forever. I am honored to help validate the journeys our future astronauts will take and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people have come to expect from Virgin Galactic.”

This will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth spaceflight test to date and the company’s first manned mission with a four-person crew, which the company conducted on May 22, when the spacecraft had only two pilots on board. Flying with Branson were three other Virgin Galactic mission specialists, Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, chief operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs. Virgin Galactic pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will fly the company’s VSS Unity spacecraft.

Virgin Galactic said the company will live-stream the space flight for the first time, with related videos available on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. The company aims to start sending paying passengers to the edge of space in early 2022. But Virgin Galactic is only competing with Blue Origin in the suborbital space tourism space, while Musk’s SpaceX will carry passengers into orbit and make longer trips, such as to the International Space Station.

Suborbital space tourism

Virgin Galactic boss in space? Although earlier than Bezos, the altitude difference is 20 km

Space tourism is human space travel for recreational purposes. There are several different types of space tourism available, including orbital, suborbital and lunar tourism. between 2001 and 2009, seven space tourists made eight space flights aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which was represented by the American company Space Adventures to the International Space Station, with published prices ranging from $20-25 million per trip. Some space tourists contracted with third parties to conduct certain research activities in orbit. By 2007, space tourism was considered one of the first markets to emerge for commercial spaceflight. Space Adventures is currently the only company that sends paying passengers into space.

Russia’s paid flights in the early 21st century were designed to raise money for its struggling space program when NASA banned the practice, saying space flight was too dangerous to be open to the general public. Russia halted orbital space tourism in 2010 due to the increase in the size of the ISS crew. Orbital tourism flights were scheduled to resume in 2015, but the planned flights were postponed indefinitely and have not happened since 2009. But in 2019, NASA changed course and opened the door to the space station, at least for those who can afford it.

Suborbital is generally defined as the airspace between 20 km and 100 km above the ground, between the maximum altitude of existing aircraft and the minimum orbital altitude of satellites, also known as the near-space or air-space transition zone, which roughly includes the atmospheric stratospheric region, the atmospheric mesospheric region, and part of the ionospheric region. This region is neither aeronautical nor aerospace. The major difference between suborbital flight and orbital flight is that suborbital cannot circle the Earth. In terms of velocity, that is, the initial launch velocity does not reach the first cosmic velocity necessary to orbit the Earth, so the projectile will keep losing altitude after reaching the highest point and will land before circling back to the launch point. Therefore, suborbital flight can be seen as an elliptical orbit near perigee orbiting below the ground, or as a non-ideal, special kind of ejecta motion.

In October 2004, Scaled Composites designed SpaceShip1, which was piloted by one pilot and loaded with a simulated weight equal to the weight of two pilots, lifted off by a “White Knight” jet and completed a flight of more than 100 km from the ground. As a result, it won the “Ansari X” private spacecraft design award with a prize of $10 million. At that time, it was predicted that mankind was on the verge of a new era: the era of private suborbital spaceflight.

A different approach

Virgin Galactic boss in space? Although earlier than Bezos, the altitude difference is 20 km

While Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic both send tourists into suborbital space, the approach is different. Blue Origin uses a rocket to launch a capsule with passengers about 62 miles (about 99.8 kilometers) above Earth. From here, participants in the space flight will experience several minutes of weightlessness as they descend. The capsule’s parachute then deploys, allowing for a soft landing.

Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 to build a space tourism business. The company’s spacecraft, VSS Unity, is released from the aircraft’s mother ship and accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound. The VSS Unity spacecraft then spends several minutes in microgravity at an altitude of 80 kilometers or more before slowly flipping and gliding back to Earth to land on a runway. Neither Blue Origin nor Virgin Galactic’s system is fast enough to enter Earth orbit, so unlike SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft (Crew Dragon) and the Falcon 9 rocket that takes astronauts to the space station, suborbital flights only last a few minutes.

If Branson flies before Bezos, there will likely be a debate about whether he actually reached space. The FAA recognizes 50 miles (about 80.4 kilometers) as the space frontier. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale considers the boundary of space to be at 100 kilometers (about 62.1 miles), which is the famous Carmen line.

VSS Unity flew three times above 50 km, but reportedly could not reach the Carmen Line. By comparison, Blue Origin’s New Shepard exceeded 100 kilometers on 12 of its 15 flights; the other three flights exceeded 80.4 kilometers.

Preemptive launch
As a publicly traded company, Virgin Galactic – which has been in the space tourism business since its founding in 2004 – focuses directly on suborbital tourism. And as a privately held company, Blue Origin is looking to diversify its business and has begun putting payloads into orbit with a heavy-lift launch vehicle it is developing.

Virgin Galactic boss in space? Although earlier than Bezos, the altitude difference is 20 km

Eric Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, said of this, “It’s so disappointing that Bezos has been in space exploration for 20 years, but is lagging behind Branson in terms of time in space. Bezos would argue that Branson probably wants to make money from the space business to expand his Virgin empire – rather than promote human development as he himself and Musk have done.”

As for Musk, Baig said, “he probably thinks Branson’s match with Bezos is a sideshow.” Musk’s SpaceX has successfully launched more than 100 rockets and sent astronauts into outer space. Musk, who celebrated his 50th birthday late last month, has publicly expressed his skepticism of Bezos. He has noted, “We’re more likely to find unicorns dancing in a pipe of flame than Bezos’ Blue Origin ship docking with the space station.”

Ashlee Vance, author of a biography of Musk, said, “Musk’s relationship with Bezos is very tense.” Bezos’ attacks on Musk have been subtle. After Musk finally landed his rocket vertically in 2015, for example, Bezos tweeted, “Welcome to the club.” The comment was ironic, noting that Bezos was the first one. Musk tweeted in response, “However, it’s important to clarify the difference between ‘space’ and ‘orbit'” – making it clear that SpaceX’s rocket went into orbit, while Blue Origin only went into space. Vance said, “They don’t care about each other. Musk doesn’t like Bezos. I think he thinks Bezos is boring.”

Today, Branson, who has always loved spectacular sights, is creating a distraction. Since the turn of the century, Branson, Musk and Bezos have spent billions of dollars chasing their space dreams. Musk, the South African-born chief executive of Tesla, wants to colonize Mars with his SpaceX rocket and even claims he wants to sleep on the red planet for a long time.

Branson has been involved in the space game since 2004. Virgin Galactic currently has a waiting list of 650 people, including movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Kate Winslet, lined up for space travel. Each will reportedly pay $250,000 for a two-hour flight of about five minutes in suborbital space.

For Branson, going to space next month is not just a way to show off for Bezos, but also a way to impress consumers. Branson is proud of his adventurer’s spirit and has caused a stir. If Bezos is seen as the villain in a James Bond movie, Branson aspires to live like 007. He has a history of crossing the English Channel in a tuxedo in an amphibious vehicle; when Virgin Galactic’s hangar opened in New Mexico, Branson drank champagne while hoisting buildings with ropes; and he once drove a tank through New York’s Times Square to launch the ill-fated Virgin Coke.

Industry insiders expect that even if Branson is the first to make a space flight in July, Bezos will give only token praise. “Bezos’ attitude will be, ‘Congratulations on your flight, but you haven’t actually been to space,'” the source said.

All three men were reportedly going crazy when one of their rivals made a public success. “Bezos is very jealous of all the U.S. government contracts Musk and SpaceX have received. Internally, he would be upset,” said Ars Technica’s Baig. In 2017, after Musk received a $1.3 billion tax break from the state of Nevada for locating a battery factory there, Bezos sent an email to key employees, “Why does Musk have the huge government incentive to get superpowers and we don’t?”

Meanwhile, Branson “isn’t actually a rocket scientist,” says Rand Simberg, an industry analyst who has dealt with all three companies, “he’s a brand name.” In 2011, Branson tried to buy rocket engines and batteries from SpaceX. Branson invited Musk to dinner and thought he had a deal. But Musk pretty much ignored further entreaties. in 2015, Musk squeezed Branson out of a satellite Internet service deal with Google executives.

Rob Meyerson, a former president of Blue Origin and now an operating partner at C5 Capital Partners, believes competition makes them all better. “Very successful people are very competitive – they inspire each other,” he said. “SpaceX has a culture of America against the world; it gives Musk a chip on his shoulder while pushing them forward. It also sets the pace for Bezos and Branson.”

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