Offer in the new space tourism industry Blue origin (the company of Jeff Bezos, the creator of Amazon), for more than two million dollars per square, is an option we could describe as a super luxury. In contrast, Virgin Galactic offers very similar packages for a tenth of this price. Elon Muska’s Space X is years ahead of its competitors.
Virgin was one of the first companies to accept the challenge of new tourism at affordable prices. Not for nothing is its founder, Richard Branson, previously created a low – cost airline of the same name. Virgin Atlantic initially operated successfully on its transatlantic flights, but for the past ten years, its results have been in the red until a pandemic in 2020 ended and forced it to go bankrupt in the summer of 2020. But by then, Branson had been plunged into his new adventure. , this time with his eyes set much higher than the altitude at which his planes flew.
Virgin’s space offering is nothing more than another option. Your ship is not a traditional capsule, but Spaceship two, a small aircraft with a rocket engine with a capacity for eight people: two pilots and six passengers. The first was an experimental model that won the Ansari Award in 2004. It is now a piece of museum hanging from the ceiling of the Washington Aerospace Museum.
The current model is an improvement on this prototype. Two units were built, but one crashed five years ago during a test flight. This is assumed due to human error by premature start of the brake system. The vehicle crashed in the middle of the flight. One of its pilots managed a parachute; the other died in a crash.
The Spaceship two (officially christened Unity) takes off from a “spaceport” built by Virgin in the New Mexico desert. He does not do it by his own means, but hangs on the White Knight, a double fuselage, four engines and wings, whose wingspan exceeds 40 meters, dimensions comparable to the dimensions of a modern bomber.
The White Knight carries his cargo up to 15,000 meters high. There, he disconnects for a few seconds and falls before starting the engine, which will propel him like a rocket for more than a legendary hundred kilometers. It is a brutal climb of 4,000 kilometers per hour. The acceleration, which Virgin describes as “comfortable”, requires anatomical seats to support well the 3.5 “ges” she experienced in those 90 seconds.
Virgin is clear that her customers expect two unique experiences: A look at the curve of our planet and a feeling of weightlessness that they will experience for a few minutes.
As an interior space Spaceship two is relatively small, the passenger seats can be folded down, leaving almost free space. Virgin is clear that her customers expect two unique experiences: A look at the curve of our planet and a feeling of weightlessness that they will experience for a few minutes.
The Spaceship two does not need retrorockets or thermal protection to return. When it’s time to slow down, just move the tail rudders to act as speed brakes. After reaching 15,000 meters, it restores them to their normal position and slides in wide circles until they land on the same runway that was used to take off. Both the rocket plane and the carrier are – of course – reusable. It’s the only way they can amplify numbers in this industry.
When it comes to Space X, Elona Muska has years of advantage. Renewing your rockets it has already become routine. Some have already flown eight times, reducing the cost of each mission proportionately. And now he’s trying his new gem, Starshipthat one day he will fly to the moon and perhaps to Mars.
NASA has confirmed the contract awarded to Space X to use the z variant Starship as a vehicle descending to the surface of the moon. No tourists will go there yet. But yes around the satellite. Musk has a fixed reservation for a return flight to the Moon without landing: Yusaku maezawa, a Japanese businessman whose fortune is estimated at about $ 2 billion. Space Adventures, the trading company that coordinates these activities, has a turnover of $ 150 million per location.
Maezawa’s journey to the Moon will not be until 2023, probably later if the development of the “starship” is delayed
According to current plans, Maezawa practically rents a boat for its private use: It can take with it maybe up to half a dozen guests. Initially, he wanted it to be a select group of artists who would use the trip as a source of inspiration, although recently it seems to be opening up and expanding the offer to other groups. In any case, the voyage to the Moon will not be earlier than in 2023, probably later if the evolution of the starship is delayed. So far, for your taste, Maezawa has also hired a place in Soyuz, which will take off in December this year to join the international station.
But first, Space X planned to launch the capsule Dragon in the middle of September. It will be the first private space flight and will carry four passengers on board without any experience in these matters. The flight commander will be Jared Isaacman, a billionaire who owes the establishment of a system of computer sales and payment points.
Isaacman – also an experienced aircraft pilot – got the idea to organize a fundraising campaign for a hospital in Memphis and offer as a prize several space flight sites. The three astronauts who accompany him are the winners (in fact, one of them did not win, but the real happy man gave up his experience and gave him his position).
The journey will take place with the capsule already used ( Endurance, who has already visited the international station and been anchored there for almost six months) and a recycled rocket. It will only take three days, without the opportunity to anchor on the ISS: A real trip with pleasure without any work other than admiring the scenery. By the way, for this flight, the bow anchoring mechanism will be replaced by a transparent dome so that four passengers can enjoy the views without restricting the small windows. So they will be the first real space tourists in history.
Rafael Clemente He is an industrial engineer and was the founder and first director of the Museum of in Barcelona (now CosmoCaixa). He is the author of the book The Little Step for [un] man (Dome Books).