A mere 60 years after taking flight, mankind took to the great unknown: outer space. Decades later, we are now considering the possibility of sending people out to space in groups, for trips that are truly out of this world.
Virgin Galactic recently received an operating license for its space tourism rocket from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The license permits Virgin Galactic to organise space tours commercially. This news comes as quite a surprise as Virgin Galactic suffered a major setback in its space programme only two years ago. The company’s first spaceship broke apart during its fourth rocket-powered test flight when a key system was unlocked prematurely.
Hopes of space tourism took a nosedive after the incident. Questions were raised about its feasibility and the seemingly exorbitant costs, among many others. The granting of the license has brought new life into a seemingly grim pipe dream. Several organisations continue to work on the technology that would one day put non-astronauts in outer space.
Virgin Galactic unveiled the newest version of its space plane, the SpaceShipTwo, earlier this year. The SpaceShipTwo’s navigations and communications telemetry systems were evaluated and calibrated at the Mojave airport in California. Virgin Galactic’s system design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis were reviewed again as part of the licensing process.
On the same day, Virgin Galactic unveiled the newest version of its space plane, while another company is close to completing its own spacecraft. XCOR Space Expeditions is currently working on the four-engine propulsion system of the Lynx, with a forecasted flight date as soon as early 2017. Although the Lynx is only able to ferry one passenger at a time, XCOR Space Expeditions offers a unique experience. The passenger gets to be a part of the pilot-astronaut’s mission in space.
SpaceX, led by Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, is working on a spacecraft with a much larger goal: to enable people to live on other planets. SpaceX strongly believes that the key to revolutionising space travel is reusability. A reusable spacecraft that is able to take off multiple times day, and make thousands of flights over its lifetime can reduce the cost of space travel exponentially.
As these organisations and more continue to develop the technology for space travel, potential passengers can only wait with bated breath for the day they get to fly among the stars.