Virgin Galactic will organize private passenger trips to the Space Station NASA
Richard Branson’s space tourism venture Virgin Galactic will start کورڈنیٹنگ private astronaut trips to the International Space Station for NASA, a new partnership aimed at increasing the commercial use of the space agency’s orbiting outpost.
Thanks to a new Space Act agreement with NASA, Virgin Galactic, is tasked with putting together a “new private orbital passenger preparation program,” for the agency. This means to find companies or organizations with an interest in sending people to the space station — for whatever reason — and then finding the right transportation to get them there. Virgin Galactic will also be responsible for coordinating to the necessary resources both in space and on the ground to make their tours a success.
It’s a similar mission to that of space adventures, a space tourism company that put together tours of the place for the rich tourists. However, Virgin Galactic says that they are looking for a wide variety of customers from outside who just want a fun trip to space. “It is not just the potential for as a private space passenger, but can also be, for researchers or even government researchers,” George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO, tells Edges, Noting that people from around the world can fly through this program.
This new focus on the orbital space flight may seem strange to Virgin Galactic, which has been mostly focused on suborbital Space flight for the last decade and a half. Virgin Galactic’s main business revolves around sending the payment customers to the edge of space and back the company on a rocket-powered spaceplane, VSS alliance. The passenger of the car is designed to take off in mid-air after deployment, down from the wing of a carrier aircraft. It climbs to a height of about 55 miles, giving any potential passengers a brief taste of weightlessness, before gliding back to earth and landing on a runway.
Virgin Galactic is yet to start commercial operations of its space tourism business, and it only sent five people to place on two separate test flights. But the company argues that this experience so far it’s qualified to run this kind of program for NASA. In addition many people who work in the Virgin Galactic experience is in the past human space flight programs in NASA. “We actually have increased on a lot of this experience to build suborbital program in the first place,” Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic’s president, who worked as the launch integration manager for the space shuttle program, tells Along the way. “This is clearly a low down version, and it’s a little more simple — you are not going for more than one day. But many of the philosophies are the same. A lot of the reasoning is the same.”
Virgin Galactic is developing an astronaut training program for its future customers, who will fly on the company’s spaceplane out of Spaceport America in New Mexico. And through this new agreement, Virgin Galactic will draw on this experience and develop a training program for users, it turns out to NASA. Although this program will be developed to prepare people for the orbit and how to use the space station.
The new training program may entail riding on Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane to provide customers with some experience of space and weightlessness before they head to orbit for a long stay. The company’s spaceplane also pulls extra GS when it ascends to space, as Rockets take off for orbit. Facing that directly could also be valuable for training, according to the company. Virgin Galactic says that the potential space will also use some of the company’s facilities at Spaceport America in New Mexico to prepare for their journey.
“We want to put the right package around, so it’s not just ‘go to a class and listening to a PowerPoint for three hours,'” says Moses! “How do you make that an attractive and enjoyable experience that you are going to want to be able to do?”
NASA says it’s ultimately the review of the plan is that Virgin Galactic puts together. “Under the agreement, NASA will conduct an evaluation of the prospects of Virgin Galactic’s plan for the development of a new private orbital passenger preparation program to enable the private space mission to the International Space Station,” NASA said in a statement to Along the way. “Virgin Galactic’s plan for the development of a new private orbital passenger of preparation programs directly support NASA’s broad strategy to facilitate the commercialization of low Earth orbit by the US institutions.”
This news comes after NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also announced plans to fly NASA astronauts on suborbital vehicles like Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane and competitors Blue Origin’s tourist rocket. Bridenstine did not provide much detail on the who are saying their plan will come out sometime this week.
The partnership also means that Virgin Galactic will take on a new role as a broker, purchase, customers, resources and transportation to make these trips possible. Now, the company of a handful of new transportation options geared towards fly people to orbit. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon just sent the first two passengers to the ISS and should start regularly fly people to orbit later this year. Boeing is also developing a crew capsule called the CST-100 Starliner to take people to orbit the car, although not likely its first flight to the passengers until next year at the earliest. Every seat on the crew of the Dragon runs a little less than $60 million, while a seat on the Starliner’s price of around $90 million.
Meanwhile, there is a third non-US option to get to orbit: Russia’s Soyuz capsule, which has been the sole method to get to space and the space station since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011. Historically, NASA has paid about $80 million for a seat on the Soyuz.
Although only three of these options for humans to get to the International Space Station, Virgin Galactic comment will not on which vehicles are being considered for flights. However, Moses said that the training program develop the company will have to be tailored, depending on which capsule take people to space. SpaceX, for example, has developed different hardware at its facilities in hawthorne to simulate what it’s like to fly on the Crew Dragon, which can come in handy for training.
Virgin Galactic says that this early interaction with potential customers interested in sending people to the space station for a variety of different reasons, from commercial purposes for research. The company is also looking at a way of training to clients for how they will use the space station when they are there depends on the reason for their visit. “What you’re going to do while you’re there, the other big piece we are really looking forward to sinking our teeth in,” Moses says. “How to prepare you while you are there and then support you once you’re on station.”
This new program is fed in a larger goal of NASA for the opening of the International Space Station for more commercial activities. For decades, ISS has mainly been a place for government and academic research, but the space agency announced last year that it will allow companies access to the ISS for commercial purposes, such as movie ads or movies, and even allow these companies to send their own personal astronauts to the station. Until now, a company called Axiom, the purpose of building a private space station announced plans to send its own representatives to the ISS through a Crew Dragon capsule late next year.
“The interesting thing here is that it is such a step by opening up low Earth orbit to a diverse renaissance of activity, and we are happy to be a part of it,” says Whitesides.
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