“I will be going up on the first flight, which I hope will be about December 25th of this year” said the Virgin-branding billionaire, “so maybe I’ll dress up as Father Christmas”
Branson hopes to bring his family along for the ride, which will last for two and a half hours and include four minutes of weightlessness as the eight-seat shuttle nudges the edge of space at some 360,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.
December 25th is an admittedly tight timeline for Virgin Galactic, which has consistently been forced to push back its launch dates.
But there’s no doubt that Virgin Galactic is getting closer to its goal of commercial space travel – beginning with ‘space tourism’ for the well-heeled, but then extending towards scheduled services which will be to this generation (or the next) what the supersonic Concorde was to the 1980s and 1990s.
A ticket to ride…
However, the cost of reserving your seat on Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflights is set to rise next week, so would-be space travellers should move fast.
Virgin Galactic has advised its agents that from Saturday June 01, a ticket to fly (and float) would increase from $200,000 to $250,000.
The option to put down a refundable $20,000 deposit will also disappear – these deposits will become non-refundable for bookings made after June 01.
A booking doesn’t just secure your spot in the queue – you’ll also enjoy a series of special events leading up to the launch, including spending time with Branson on his private island, doing G-Force training at the NASTAR centre plus a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship factory in Mojave.
How Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital flights work?
Virgin Galactic’s space carrier is an aircraft in two parts, with the ‘White Knight Two’ transporter cradling the smaller ‘SpaceShipTwo‘ passenger craft beneath its wings.
At this point SpaceShipTwo — half the width of the 737 and only 18 metres (60 feet) long – detaches and fires its own boosters to soar to 110,000 metres.
At this height, with the atmosphere becoming thinner and friction from air decreasing, the passenger shuttle can hit speeds of 4,000 km/h before turning off its engines, coasting along near the rim of space and gliding down to earth.
Sydney-London in four hours: the Kangaroo Route in 2050
As nice as ‘space tourism‘ is, the real prize for Branson will be a return to the superfast era of the Concorde – only this time even quicker, with scheduled sub-orbital shuttles to whisk you from Sydney to London in four hours.
As previously reported, Brett Godfrey – former founding CEO of Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia), long-time Branson friend and holder of a ticket into space – believes that sub-orbital services will be “the next level” beyond supersonic, with substantial appeal to business travellers.
“In another 10 or 15 years it will be $20,000 – it will be no more than a first-class ticket somewhere” Godfrey said, “and then eventually they will be able to get a slightly bigger rocket with a bit more fuel and they’ll be able to get it so it goes trans-continental and then around the world.”
“It may not be in my lifetime that it goes commercial but I think it probably will.”
With London and Sydney being just over 17,000 km apart, SpaceShipTwo travelling at 4,000 km/h and the earth far below spinning at 1,700 km/h, that’s almost exactly three hours from Sydney Harbour to the Thames.
Add half an hour for lift-off and half an hour to glide down, and you turn the long-haul Kangaroo Route into a breezy four hour hop – less time than it currently takes from Sydney to Perth.
For more information on Virgin Galactic space flights and to make reservations please contact the team at World of Transport Travel based here on Earth in Twickenham SW London.