The Virgin Galactic White Knight 2 is drawing closer to aiding the launch of Virgin’s space shuttle into outer space, taking 6 lucky people beyond the atmosphere.
Tests are continuing at the New Mexico site, on the mothership and mini shuttle to launch 6 regular people into space to experience the curve of the earth, the weightlessness and to be hundreds of miles above earth. The company is hoping to be ready to take it’s first paying customers into space within the next couple of years.
The mothership, White Knight 2, consists of one giant wing expanding across two plane bodies, with a mounting area in the middle for the smaller shuttle, which will launch off of the White Knight at 50,000 ft, accelerating 2,500mph into the atmosphere. Although the current spaceship has not been into space yet, it is being tested at higher and higher altitudes making sure no errors occur along the way.
Virgin are even considering the environment by trying to make the shuttles fuel efficient and not produce masses of carbon emissions. The vehicles are made entirely from carbon composite, which is a strong, sturdy and light material, perfect for rockets. Also the fact the smaller shuttle is being launched from altitude means it will use less rocket fuel to break through the denser parts of the atmosphere that are at a lower altitude.
To re-enter earth’s atmosphere the smaller spaceship has a special trick up its sleeve. The wings fold up increasing drag, allowing them to enter back into the earths atmosphere slower and safer. This clever mechanism also means they do not need heat shields, which has reduced costs in weight and fuel. Once it has re-entered the atmosphere its wings move back into position to glide back down to earth safe and sound.
Tickets for the once in a lifetime space adventure don’t come cheap though, with current prices being £125,000 per person, making it well out of reach for people like me! However, if you are minted then you are in with a shout at the minute, but rumour has it, if Virgin is successful with their mission, investments from rival companies will probably be made. This could possibly make space travel cheaper in the future due to the competition.
Would you pay to go into space? I obviously wouldn’t be able to afford it at the current rate, and I don’t think I would try it, mainly because I hate flying as it is now, let alone going out of the earth’s atmosphere at 2,500mph!
On 1st April, Richard Branson announced he had bought Pluto and planned on reinstating it as a real planet…April fools?
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