back to article Virgin Galactic flies final test before opening for business

Virgin Galactic successfully launched a crewed suborbital test flight of its VSS Unity spacecraft on Thursday – a mission billed as the final milestone before officially opening up for space tourism. At 0915 Mountain Time (1515 UTC), the VMS Eve mothership took off from New Mexico's Spaceport America, carrying its spacecraft …

  1. Andy 73 Silver badge

    I thought..

    Virgin Galactic came before Virgin Orbit?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: I thought..

      It did by about 12 years.

      Text should read “only” instead of “first”.

  2. Dacarlo

    A fad if they don't rethink

    If they don't pile it high and sell it low, they'll have a few of the 0.1%ers having a go but they'll get bored real quick.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: A fad if they don't rethink

      IIRC it was $200K when they first launched ... but then I have worked out that was almost 20 years ago. Time flies by when you're the pilot of a space plane...

      1. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

        Re: A fad if they don't rethink

        You can ride on the interstage there and back again...

      2. GruntyMcPugh

        Re: A fad if they don't rethink

        Let's hope they don't need a guest appearance from Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          Re: A fad if they don't rethink

          Where's Hugh?

          Ah

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: A fad if they don't rethink

        "Time flies by when you're the pilot of a space plane..."

        Is that...Dare is say it?...you, Dan?

    3. fpx

      Re: A fad if they don't rethink

      Virgin Galactic is the only game in town to ride a rocket and see space.

      Commercial ventures that take you to orbit may just be around the corner, but will be somewhat like 50 times as expensive.

      If I had a few billion in spare change, sure, I'd thumb my nose at those poor suckers and wait a few years to take a real trip to "outer space", a.k.a. LEO, but at this price point, Virgin Galactic will still find plenty customers among the merely rich.

      Since I don't even qualify for that, I'll have to stick to the few milliseconds of micro-gravity that I can get in a rollercoaster.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A fad if they don't rethink

        I'll have to stick to the few milliseconds of micro-gravity

        Putin has helped some Russian top people to briefly experience that weightless feeling too. A once in a lifetime experience, so to speak..

        /s

      2. G.Y.

        not the only game; Re: A fad if they don't rethink

        see https://incredible-adventures.com/space_planes.html

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A fad if they don't rethink

        Yeah, it looks exciting, but nearly half a million for a few minutes of freefall, total trip less than an hour and half. Ok, a few minutes of exciting acceleration too. But still, HALF A MEEEELION? Until Bezos starts competing, I suppose it's the only option, and there's a lot of people who can afford that. Even if you just add up the number of lottery winners around the world that win over, say $5m, that alone is quite a few people and there's not going to be that many flights per year.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: A fad if they don't rethink

        "Virgin Galactic is the only game in town to ride a rocket and see space."

        Blue Origin has launched a bunch of people so far.

    4. Steve Channell
      Facepalm

      it's about money, not space tourism

      If they cancel, they'll have to return the deposits that they've already spent; many über-rich that booked flight will forgo the ticket fee rather than risk their lives travelling on solid-state rocket, when real-space can be achieved more safely with a Bezos projectile.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's a lot of money

    For not going in to space. Sub-orbital? It's sub-space.

    1. Xalran

      Re: That's a lot of money

      The Karman line is set at 100Km ( 300k feet ), if you go over it you are in space, even if you don't achieve orbital speed.

      The Karman line is internationally acknowledged as the limit between earth atmosphere and space despite the fact that there's a few caveats and stuff around the altitude to reach to be in space.

    2. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

      Re: That's a lot of money

      A quick google tells me that Blue Origin gets you an 11 minute flight, with 3 minutes of weightlessness, while Virgin Galactic gets you a 90 minute flight, and between 4-5 minutes of weightlessness.

      So which is better, comes down to whether you prefer length or girth :p Or, as an ex put it, "was that it?"

  4. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Kill

    What will kill Virgin Galactic is the fact that you're not actually crossing the Karmann line and therefore lack bragging rights. Blue Origin does cross the 100km threshold so most people having $450K to spend will go with that. Apart from the fact that BO's ride is much more like an actual rocket launch.

    The difference between Virgin Galactic and BO is also pretty substantial (20km). There's no easy way for Virgin to solve this without redesigning their craft.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kill

      Personally, it being just a few minutes would stop me wasting money on it. Starship will be able to offer a significant number of people an orbital all day trip.

      So they have a few years to try and milk it, until then. Kinda sucks for them to see the writing on the wall is so close.

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Kill

        How exactly will starship operate on mars given the big hole in the ground it made on earth ?

        1. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

          Re: Kill

          Less gravity on Mars = less force required at takeoff = smaller hole

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: Kill

            Git! ---------------------->

          2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            Re: Kill

            Even if the hole is smaller, what makes you think sucking in all that dust or a smaller amount of rocks is a good thing for any rocket ?

            1. Francis Boyle

              Sucking?

              Are you sure you know how rockets work?

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Kill

          It probably won't, but that doesn't stop it becoming a taxi to LEO or the Moon.

          I would absolutely love to go to orbit for a few days and return, but I've absolutely no desire to go to Mars.

          Something along the lines of Starship is basically the only way that could ever become affordable, so I really hope Musk doesn't trash it.

    2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: Kill

      Well I'm not so sure. It's the view. 20km higher is not going to change an 'Oh my god, look at that!' to something even more amazing. It's going to be as amazing at 80km as at 100km. And once the 'wow what an experience' starts to become a common comment from those who've used it, I can see his service selling itself. The question is how big is the market?

      1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

        Re: Kill

        It's all about bragging rights. Even though the 100km threshold of space is arbitrary, the boundary internationally excepted as "space."

  5. jollyboyspecial

    Astronaut?

    Why do they keep using the word astronaut? A brief suborbital flight as a passenger is surely not enough to qualify you as an astronaut

    1. JimC

      Re: Astronaut?

      because if they don't use the word astronaut even fewer people will shell out all that cash for their 5 minutes of floating...

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Astronaut?

      'Astronaut' actually means 'star traveller' so in reality no-one yet qualifies for that name. The Russian 'cosmonaut' is probably a more accurate term for everything so far done in space.

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Astronaut?

        Cosmonaut is also the correct term to use, by the normal rules of precedence.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Astronaut?

      The same reason people use AI for LLM machine learning and why those stupid boards with wheels were called hoverboards.

      Marketing.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Astronaut?

        Full Self-Driving

    4. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: Astronaut?

      Why does Musk use Autopilot ?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah

    Nah

    I just saved $450k

    1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: Yeah

      So what are you going to do with it now?

  7. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    Glad to see this

    I had a few bucks invested in both Galactic and Orbit. Sadly Orbit crashed and burned with that stupid fuel filter, taking my money with it, but if they start successful flights in June I should come out ahead with both. Sucked on Orbit because had that flight gone OK I'd have made quite a bit from it. The only silver lining was nobody died when the rocket blew up.

    I have no interest in going myself though. I'll wait till I can be beamed aboard before I willingly go to space.

  8. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Old tech

    Virgin Galactic has cut a whole bunch of flights from its testing campaign which is very worrisome. White Knight 2 is getting pretty old and has needed a bunch of time on the hoist to fix cracks and other issues. I note that they've gone from 6 to 4 passengers which might indicate that they are going with the Nylon fuel grain rather than the HTPB rubber as the Nylon needs a Helium system to regulate the burn but runs much smoother where the rubber can burn roughly enough towards the end to do some serious injuries to people's insides.

    I was there taking photos when the first spacecraft came apart years ago on Halloween. Rockets are not toys.

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