Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic wants to take long-haul air travel above the atmosphere

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This article was previously published on Future Travel Experience

By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience

Over the next year or so, commercial travel will be revolutionised when Virgin Galactic launches the first ever space tourism flight, which has so far been nine years in the making. While it is initially only available to those rich enough to afford a USD 250,000 ticket, the company is keen to bring space travel to the masses and aims to offer a passenger experience far exceeding anything that has been offered before.

Ranging from the flight preparations that all passengers – or astronauts – must undertake, to the geography lesson they receive to allow them to fully appreciate the spectacular sights, to the design of the spaceship interior, every aspect of the customer journey has been intricately planned to ensure it exceeds all expectations. “Unlike commercial air travel, the flight is the experience,” Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic’s Commercial Director, told Future Travel Experience. “It’s a much more intense and uplifting experience.”

Preparing for the space travel experience
While air travellers often arrive at an airport unsure of what to do or where to go, the experience for the first batch of commercial space tourists will be very different. Attenborough said: “We spend three days with the future astronauts in New Mexico before the flight to prepare them for the sensory overload, free them from any anxiety, and make sure they are well informed, safe and ready to enjoy the flight.”

Before take-off, there will be no long queues or last-minute checks, just a journey down a long escalator and a walk through a friends and family area, before taking a seat on the groundbreaking SpaceShipTwo. The flight itself will be like something from a Hollywood movie. After a calm take-off and a cruise up to 50,000 feet, the spaceship will be released from its carrier and, according to Attenborough, “the astronaut presses a button and everything changes very quickly.” Read full article

The Next Frontier: KLM to sell tickets for suborbital space flights

KLM has partnered with Space Experience Curacao (SCX), a commercial suborbital space flight venture planning to operate out of its Space Port on the Caribbean island of Curacao. SCX will offer passengers a few minutes of weightlessness beyond Earth’s atmosphere and a view of the planet from about 105 km (65 miles) above ground. KLM has registered for the first flights from the island in the Dutch Antilles and also will be supporting future suborbital flights through promotion and sale of the tickets, for example as part of vacation packages to Curacao. The airline will also enable frequent fliers to put their points toward flights into space. KLM CEO Peter Hartman said of the new suborbital spaceflight partnership: “It is a fantastic project that totally fits the pioneering spirit of KLM.” A KLM spokeswoman said the airline still had to work out exactly what the criteria would be to earn a space flight ticket — which sells for EUR70,000 (USD95,000). 

XCOR ‘Lynx’
Space Experience Curacao was founded in 2008 by a former commander of the Royal Dutch Air Force and an air force test pilot and has backing from private equity investors and Hato International Airport in Curacao. The company signed a deal in October 2010 to lease a sub-orbital spacecraft called the ‘Lynx’ and a pilot from U.S-based XCOR Aerospace,. The Lynx takes off and lands horizontally and is designed to fly to over 100 km in altitude up to four times per day. The spacecraft has just two seats, meaning that it can carry just one passenger at a time who is sitting right up front like a co-pilot, instead of in back. The total flight time would be about 30 minutes, with the passenger experiencing just over four minutes of weightlessness. To see how an XCOR suborbital flight would look like, see this video (recommended). Pending U.S. government approvals for the spacecraft, Space Experience Curacao hopes to start flights in January 2014. Read full article