Friday , June 21 2024

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson successfully rockets to outer space

By Jackie WattlesCNN Business

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (CNN Business)Richard Branson became the first person to ride into space aboard a rocket he helped fund. The supersonic space plane developed by his company, Virgin Galactic, roared into the sky over New Mexico early Sunday, carrying Branson and three fellow crewmembers.Branson -— along with Virgin Galactic employees Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla and pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci — boarded the SpaceShipTwo, a winged plane with a single rocket motor that the company has spent nearly two decades developing, before the crack of dawn. Attached beneath its massive, twin-fuselage mothership, dubbed WhiteKnightTwo, the vehicle took to the skies at 8:30 am MT and climbed to about 50,000 feet in the

“To all you kids down there…” – @RichardBranson‘s message from zero gravity. #Unity22

Watch the livestream: https://t.co/5UalYT7Hjb pic.twitter.com/lYXHNsDQcU— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 11, 2021

This flight marked only the fourth test flight of the vehicle that reached the edge of space.Surrounding SpaceShipTwo’s takeoff was — in typical Branson fashion -— a high-production party with friends, family, employees and a few VIPs in attendance. Earlier on Sunday, Branson tweeted a picture of himself and a barefoot Elon Musk hanging out. Grammy-nominated artist Khalid is also expected to perform an as-yet-unreleased song on an outdoor stage.

What this means

Branson’s flight — which came just nine days before Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is slated to rocket into suborbital space aboard his own company’s spacecraft — is a landmark moment for the commercial space industry. The up-and-coming sector has for years been seeking to make suborbital space tourism (a relatively simple straight-up-and-down flight, as opposed to orbiting the Earth for longer periods) a viable business with the aim of allowing thousands of people to experience the adrenaline rush and sweeping views of our home planet that such flights can offer.

Everything you need to know about Richard Branson going to space this weekendVirgin Galactic plans to conduct just one more test flight before it will begin flying paying customers. More than 600 people have reserved tickets priced at $200,000 to $250,000 so far. The company is expected to reopen ticket sales soon, though at a higher price point.Branson’s flight also helps bolster Virgin Galactic’s reputation as the “world’s first commercial spaceline.” That’s how the company advertised itself as it signed up those hundreds of willing customers who’ve waited through development delays — and a tragic mishap — for their chance to ride aboard SpaceShipTwo.But whether or not Virgin Galactic will really be the “first” commercially operational suborbital space company is not yet clear. Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, appeared poised to put its founder in space before Branson, until Virgin Galactic made the surprise announcement earlier this month that he would be on the very next test flight, a departure from the company’s earlier plans.Bezos’ flight, slated for July 20, could kick off the company’s commercial operations sooner than that, and one of his fellow passengers on the flight is a paying customer, having won a ticket through a charity auction for the price of $28 million. The company has not yet begun selling tickets to the public, however, nor has it set a specific date for when it plans to do so.Neither company is expected to offer tickets that are affordable to the average American.Branson did tease a big “announcement” about his effort to “democratize space” ahead of the flight. But he revealed Sunday only that Virgin Galactic would be holding a “sweepstakes” for two free tickets, along with a tour of the facility from the winners from Branson himself.

How Virgin Galactic got here

Virgin Galactic moved into its facilities in New Mexico in May 2019 after years of delay. The glitzy building, called Spaceport America, was paid for with more than $200 million in mostly taxpayer money, and it had been waiting nearly a decade for Virgin Galactic to move in and open for business.The company refurbished the building to include a lounge and other amenities that ticket holders will be able to use before their brief journey to the edge of space.Virgin Galactic’s development program has endured a series of setbacks, including a catastrophic accident during a test flight in 2014 that left a co-pilot dead and the pilot badly injuredafter the SpaceShipTwo’s feathering system was prematurely deployed, ripping the spacecraft apart. The company has since parted ways with its manufacturing partner and says it has worked to enhance SpaceShipTwo with additional automated safeguards.Branson said ahead of Sunday’s test flight that he was anxious to join the pilots and test engineers who’ve already flown on SpaceShipTwo because he felt it demonstrated a crucial vote of confidence.Richard Branson receives some cards from children as he walks out from Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021.Richard Branson receives some cards from children as he walks out from Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021.”You’ve got to remember that Virgin Galactic has people on every spaceflight… The fact that I’m willing to fly with those people shows confidence,” Branson told CNN Business’ Rachel Crane earlier this month. “I think the least the founder of the company can do is go up there and fly with his people.”

About Akanbi Abdullahi

Akanbi cut his teeth in Journalism after leaving the Federal Polytechnic, Offa with a National Diploma in Mass Communication and proceeded to the University of Abuja to study the English Language. He is a Teacher, Project Manager, IT Consultant, a Backend Software Engineer and a Blogger.

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