Virgin Galactic will send its first commercial flight into space on Thursday.
The space flight, dubbed Galaxy 01 by Sir Richard Branson’s private space tourism company, is due to take off at 4pm UK time.
But what is commercial spaceflight? What will happen on board? What does this mean for the future of space tourism?
What is Commercial Space Flight?
In short, it’s a space flight that people pay for.
While Galaxy 01 is billed as Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight, there will be no tourists on board.
Instead, the crew will embark on a scientific research mission.
But when the Galaxy 02 takes off in August, it will carry paying customers.
What will happen on the plane?
Galaxy 01 will carry three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the Italian National Research Council and an astronaut trainer from Virgin Galactic.
The 90-minute flight will be suborbital, meaning it will reach the edge of space without going into orbit.
Researchers will conduct 13 experiments investigating biomedical thermofluid dynamics and microgravity.
How will the launch go?
The space shuttle will be launched in mid-air from a carrier-based aircraft at an altitude of about 9.4 miles (15 kilometers).
Its rockets then launch the spacecraft and its crew into suborbital space at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Earth.
Passengers will experience five minutes of weightlessness.
How can I watch the launch event?
The launch will be broadcast live by Virgin Galactic and can be viewed on the Sky News website and app.
How much is the tour ticket?
A ticket for a 90-minute trip into space will cost $450,000 (£356,000).
According to Virgin Galactic, that’s the price people are willing to pay. “Demand is high,” with hundreds of passengers queuing to board the plane, the company’s website said.
What does this mean for the future of space tourism?
Virgin Galactic expects to fly every month after its first tourist flight launches in August.
The company hopes to expand its flight schedule in the first few years of operation.
Have tourists been in space before?
In 2001, American Dennis Tito became the first space tourist when he paid Russia $20m (£16m) to fly to the International Space Station and spend a week there.
Between 2001 and 2009, eight more space tourists traveled on Russian space shuttles.
In 2022, three multi-millionaires fly to the international space station exist SpaceXFirst private charter flight to the orbiting lab. They each paid $55m (£42m) for the rocket ride and accommodation.
Russia has been hosting tourists on the space station for decades. In 2021, a Russian film crew takes off on a plane, followed by a Japanese fashion mogul and his assistant.
jeff bezos company blue origin The first manned flight was completed in 2021, with four ordinary citizens on board, including Bezos, his brother Mark, an 18-year-old and an 82-year-old.
Commercial launch of Virgin Galactic space flight on Thursday Successful test flight Sir Richard Branson will join in 2021.