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The Aircraft That Might Get Justin Bieber & Co to Space Is Officially Introduced

Almost two years after the crash of SpaceShipTwo’s first generation, the VSS Enterprise, Virgin Galactic is showing the public the new and improved version of the aircraft that has now been called VSS Unity.
VSS Unity 1 photo
Towed on the stage by a white Range Rover with a jubilant Richard Branson out through the sunroof, the Unity strolled in front of the audience gathered at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, the site where Virgin Galactic conducts its tests.

Everyone who’s trying to achieve something new and this bold knows what they’re getting themselves into, but the tragic death of the pilot and the severe injury the co-pilot suffered following the 2014 crash can’t be overlooked easily.

Virgin has spent this time coming up with ways of making its new aircraft safer, and that focus can easily be seen from the outside. And by that we mean that it’s nearly identical, so they clearly didn’t spend all that time working on the SpaceShipTwo’s design.

Apparently, the whole self-driving vehicles craze has reached sub-orbital flying levels, as the new VSS Unity will feature a very high automatization level. That’s also strongly related to 2014’s crash, which subsequent investigations proved it was partly caused by pilot error, so the new SpaceShipTwo will come with additional safety protocols to keep pilots from making similar mistakes.

The new aircraft hasn’t flown yet, but Virgin Galactic says it’s ready to begin its test flights, which are scheduled for later this year. After the testing phase is done - and assuming everything goes as planned - the VSS Unity will be ready to begin its maiden voyages, for which 700 people have already booked a $250,000 ticket. Of course, apart from other well-off people, there are countless celebrities waiting to see Earth from afar: Justin Bieber, Angelina Jolie or actor turned environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio.

Like its predecessor, the VSS Unity will still require the help of WhiteKnightTwo, a carrier aircraft, to reach an altitude of 50,000 feet, from where it can launch its rocket propulsion systems and go to the target height of up to 70 miles (113 km) off the Earth’s surface. The aircraft will then re-enter the atmosphere and glide its way back to a landing strip.

Virgin Galactic isn’t giving an exact timeline, and you can understand why they’re not hurrying the process in any way, but given the experience it now has (some of it gained the hard way), it most likely won’t be too long until space traveling becomes a thing. Charles Miller, president of NexGenSpace, a spaceflight consulting firm, strengthens this idea by telling The Verge that “we'll have multiple vehicles flying people to space very soon."



 
 
 
 
 

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