Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Private flights to space to start next year with Virgin Galactic

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It will cost you the same as a new house, but for some space enthusiasts, the five minutes of weightlessness and the astronaut wings will be worth it. SpaceShip Two, which will ferry passengers into space, is finishing its testing in the Mojave Desert in California.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Built by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic in coordination with Scaled Composites, SpaceShip Two is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots into space for about five minutes, then return them safely to earth.

The tickets don't come cheap however, costing $200,000 apiece. Virgin Galactic says they already have 500 paying passengers ready to go. Their flights could begin as early as next year as testing concludes. They will depart from a "space port" that has just finished construction near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The ride will start slow and easy, as SpaceShip Two is carried to 50,000 feet by a mothership called WhiteKnight Two. At 50,000 feet the spaceship will be dropped and it will fall away for a few seconds before the rocket engine is ignited.

After ignition, passengers will feel about 3Gs, three times the force of gravity as the craft accelerates, then arcs upward into space.

The craft is expected to reach an altitude of 68 miles. Space is said to begin at 50 miles, so the passengers will technically become astronauts at that point.

After about five minutes, SpaceShip Two will begin to reenter the atmosphere and passengers will gradually feel the return of gravity. The ship has a specially-designed reentry system that allows it to glide home with minima input from the pilots. Because the craft is travelling at low speed, it will not require a special heat shield, just a controlled descent.

SpaceShip Two will land as a glider on the runway from which it departed.

The first full-fledged flight test may come as early as April 22, although that day is unconfirmed. Those wishing to watch the flight can do so from Mojave in California. Virgin Galactic is expected to release the date and time of the flight within the next few days.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)