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Is the Virgin Galactic rocket plane the future?

Since the 1990's only an exceptionally affluent handful of non-astronauts have had the opportunity to see the earth from orbit. If you have ever wanted to orbit the earth, the Virgin Galactic rocket plane is bringing this dream to reality. It is planned that the Virgin Galactic rocket plane are to be robust and affordable enough to take paying passengers. Of course the cost of this once in a lifetime experience will not be an inexpensive fee. It will be $200,000 per person with a deposit of a $20,000. Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the rocket plane, predicts that the price per ticket will drop to $20,000 in just few years.

The craft will carry six passengers and then the pilot craft. The galactic rocket will overlap the earth's atmosphere at 70,000 feet. Once 52,000 feet is reached, the rocket will separate from when the plan reaches its maximum height. The total time from liftoff to touch down will be 3.5 hours. The sub-orbital flight itself will only be a small fraction of that time. The weightlessness will last approximately 6 minutes. Passengers will be able to release themselves from their seats during these 6 minutes and float around the cabin. This was the original plan however while this was in effect, Virgin Galactic continued to work on another rocket plane. This rocket plane will fly higher than the first. It will reach a height of 110km in order to go beyond the defined boundary of space and lengthen then experience of weightlessness. The plane will reach around mach 3, which is faster than current fighter jets are capable of attaining. However the rocket plane will not be able to stay at this speed for long periods of time. It also has doubled the crew and can carry triple the passengers. In order to re-enter the atmosphere the rocket plane folds its wings up and then returns them to their original position for an unpowered descent or also known as a glide.

Sir Richard Branson unveiled the rocket plane on December 7, 2009. The second rocket plane was presented in the Mojave Desert, in California. The rocket plan will undergo numerous tests over the next 18 months before being allowed to take ticketed individuals on short trips just above the atmosphere. The rocket plane is going to help with future space travel making it more convenient for the average person to go into space. However there are numerous other companies actively working on commercial passenger spaceflight as well. Along with the new rockets planes there are space ports under construction. This is the airport like area where the rocket plane with liftoff and return. Where are they building these new spaceports? Right now the current locations are:

  • California

  • New Mexico

  • Dubai

  • Sweden

The spaceport America being built in New Mexico is scheduled for completion later in the year 2010. The first 300 seats have already been booked. This shows that people are interested in space travel. This means the rocket plane will become very popular in the years to come. The first regular passenger flight is set to be launched by the end of 2011. However even though passengers pay the high price to go to space there still are limitations. While over 85,000 have expressed an interest in becoming a Virgin Galactic astronaut some medical testing and g-force preparation in involved to ensure that passengers are ready for the flights. Although the process is still being tested, it is safe to say that the Virgin Galactic rocket plane is to become part of future traveling. With the popularity of this concept Virgin Galactic will not be the only one to offer this in the years to come.

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