Virgin Galactic, the space tourism firm by British billionaire Richard Branson, had officially revealed the interior of its VSS Unity space plane. The company aims to provide suborbital space flights to tourists, as well as for science missions in the near future via the aforementioned vehicle.
Based on the video presentation of the VSS Unity’s interior on the company’s official YouTube channel, space tourists can expect to be greeted by a multi-windowed cabin which offers an unprecedented view of the Earth. Of course, the vessel itself will be around 90km above our home planet in order to achieve this. And yes, tourists will get to experience the feeling of weightlessness at this height.
Inside the cabin, passengers are strapped onto six specifically designed seats that will allow them to experience the view from the 12 circular windows once it has reached the designated altitude. The VSS Unity will be positioned to have its upper fuselage facing towards the Earth for this, and passengers will also be allowed to unbuckle themselves to experience zero-gravity throughout the duration.
Speaking of which; the entire trip will take 90 minutes in total, according to Virgin Galactic chief space officer George Whitesides. He added that VSS Unity is intended to take off from the company’s Spaceport America which is located in New Mexico, and will be carried by the White Knight Two quadjet cargo aircraft up to its release altitude.
Once it reaches the designated altitude, Unity will then detach itself from the aircraft and continue to earth’s higher altitude using its onboard rocket engine. After hovering above the earth for a period of time, the vehicle will then descend and glide back to the spaceport for landing. Since Unity only operates below the Kármán line altitude of 100 km, it will not experience atmospheric reentry burn like other spacecrafts such as the NASA space shuttles or SpaceX Crew Dragon.
But don’t get too excited for a chance to experience space travel anytime soon though. Virgin Galactic and the VSS Unity have yet to clear the final testing milestones in order to obtain a commercial operating license from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That said, Whitesides also added that the company has not set a firm date for its first commercial space flight.
Another kicker is that each trip will cost eager space tourists a whopping USD250,000 (~RM1,060,950) per ticket once Virgin Galactic is approved to operate in the near future. In that regard, the chief space officer said that the company is hoping to someday make the experience more affordable to “as many people as possible.”
For most of us, that day would still be a long time coming.