Fly Me to the Moon (or at least get closer)
Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJS, and Spaceport America has signed a deal with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will formally allow them to charter space flights from “Spaceport America”, their New Mexico base. I wonder if Branson can combine his car insurance coverage to get a discount if he gets space flight insurance too.
The historic deal also specifies rules for how those flights will be integrated into United States airspace (the place where non-space planes usually fly.) The deal is a major step for commercialized space travel and puts Virgin Galactic on schedule to start offering flights by the end of 2014.
The agreement provides procedures for the safe integration of commercial, licensed space launch operations into the National Airspace System from Spaceport America. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority also has an agreement with the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range to support space launch activities within White Sand’s airspace.
In addition, Virgin Galactic now has agreements in place with Edwards Air Force Base and the FAA’s Joshua Control Facility to cover spaceflights in California.
If you’re hoping to be on the very first trip out of “Spaceport America” in New Mexico, you’re out of luck – that honor is reserved for Sir Richard Branson and his family. After that, flights will be available to the public – for a cost of $250,000 per person.
What $250,000 buys you:
• Experience three days of preparation at Spaceport America which includes “team-bonding and training onsite.”
• You’ll learn how to make the most of the time in microgravity
• Get tips on how to be comfortable and safe in macrogravity
• Training on all safety and emergency procedures
• Actual flight time lasting about two hours
• The SpaceShipTwo will hitch a one hour ride up to a launch altitude of 46,000 to 47,000 feet attached to WhiteKnightTwo, the specially-designed carrier aircraft or mothership.
• When the launch altitude is reached, the spaceship is released and ignites its hybrid rocketmotor. Then, the real experience begins:
o The spaceship accelerates within eight seconds to supersonic speeds, eventually reaching Mach 3.5. (about 2,595.4 mph)
o Then, there are a few minutes of weightlessness
o The flight takes you up to a maximum altitude of 68 miles
So, if you’ve got a strong stomach and an extra $250,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you may want to make a reservation now. And even you’re a little short on cash, see how much you can start saving with a new quote on your car insurance.
Assuming you have the extra cash, would you like to go into space? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.