Virgin Galactic will be conducting a crewed test of it SpaceShipTwo next month, inching the company closer to its plan of taking tourists to the very edge of space.
The test is set for October 22, as discovered by CNBC and confirmed by Virgin Galactic. The upcoming test flight will carry two test pilots on board, CNBC reports, and if successful then this will be followed by a second crewed test flight which will have four mission specialists on board.
After both of these test flights, the founder of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, may join another test flight early next year to inaugurate the space tourism service.
Virgin Galactic confirmed to CNBC they will be testing the SpaceShipTwo soon, but noted that the October 22 date is the start of the launch window, so the actual test could be later than that date. The test will operate from Spaceport America.
The suborbital SpaceShipTwo Unity spaceplane completed its first powered flight in 2018, and since then the craft has completed a number of further tests, including a recent test flight from the new Spaceport America which will be the starting location for tourist flights.
The company has been sharing more and more information about its upcoming space tourism services, including recently showing off what the inside of a SpaceShipTwo cabin will look like. The six-seater cabin will have 17 windows to provide views of the Earth as passengers are taken to the very edge of space and experience zero gravity for a short time.
The cabin’s interior is designed with honeycomb elements to allow passengers to climb and move around during the brief period of weightlessness, and there is also a large mirror at the back of the cabin and a number of cameras so that the weightless experience can be observed and recorded.
In addition to space tourism flights using the suborbital SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic has also expressed interest in carrying space tourists to the International Space Station as part of a partnership with NASA, though for this task the company would need a different vehicle capable of carrying passengers into orbit.