The Farnborough International Airshow kicks off this week. Traditionally an event reserved for big announcements and massive orders for products in the aviation community, this year’s gathering will be more enamored with the presence of a spacecraft initially conceived by this guy:
Sir Richard Branson (Pictured above) is expected to provide updates on the flight testing and certification progress of Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composite‘s joint effort in making space tourism possible. As of June 26th, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo had successfully completed gliding and rocket motor firing tests. This accomplishment keeps the company on pace to complete it’s first powered flight test by the end of the year with a first commercial flight suggested for 2013. You’ve read correctly, sometime next year we could be reading Yelp reviews on Virgin Galactic’s in-flight service quality and customer experience. Picture of SpaceShipTwo (center) mounted to WhiteKnightTwo (left and right) below:
So how can you grab a seat on this star bound steed? Pretty easily actually, simply sell your house. Or a kidney. Or Magic Mike yourself for a few months because a ticket to the heavens is going to set you back a cool $200,000. Undeterred by the price tag however, more than 500 people have reserved their seats with a few more expected to join up at Farnborough this week after Branson’s progress update and possible disclosure of design changes. For those of you attending the airshow this week, please keep me posted!
The business case for space tourism is still a mystery to me and I’d love to hear any input from you on how this venture could pay off for those involved. Currently a $200,000 ticket will get you a 150 minute ride into space with 5 minutes of weightlessness. With such a highly priced service, customer base for this type of tourism remains small and I’d have to believe those returning for second and third flights would be minimal.
Something else must be on the horizon for a company to pursue this method of space travel…
Could this be an attempt at securing government funded space contracts in the future? After the cancellation of the manned space program, America currently has no way of getting its astronauts into space without help from outside governments. Perhaps Virgin Galactic is looking to secure manned trips to the international space station, proving space worthy technology with funding from the wealthy thrill seekers of the world?
In any event, the new “space race” by privatized companies in America will surely bring excitement as it’s players push forward with their respective products. I’m expecting any announcements and activity related to space tourism coming from Farnborough this week to heighten that excitement.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go work on my six pack and dance moves… tickets to space don’t pay for themselves.