NASA Books Flight in New Mexico

Laura Pisano

While NASA’s space program has ended, they have booked their first flights using a spaceport in New Mexico. British billionaire, Richard Branson, owns what he hopes to be the first commercial space craft: Virgin Galactic. According to LA Times, Galactic has a confirmed order from NASA for one charter suborbital spaceflight so the space agency can conduct experiments. A potential $4.5 Million contract is in the works with NASA and charter flights.

Chief executive of Virgin Galactic, George Whitesides said, “We are excited to be working with NASA to provide the research community with this opportunity to carry out experiments in space. An enormous range of disciplines can benefit from access to space, but historically, such research opportunities have been rare and expensive.” The future goals for the Virgin Galactic include hopes of the first passenger flights sometime next year. Tourist costs of the flights are estimated to be around $200,000 according to LA Times.

The first NASA contracted flight will be leaving in southern New Mexico, in Albuquerque. The NASA filled space ship will be attached to a carrier aircraft when launched. The ship will then detach after it has reached a certain distance. The Associated Press said that more than 450 people have purchased tickets to fly with Virgin Galactic. Richard Branson said, “We want to be sure we’ve really tested the craft through and through before turning it over to the astronauts who bought tickets to go up,” he said. “If it takes a bit longer, we’ll take a little bit longer.”

Eventually, after receiving a license from the Federal Aviation Administration, commercial service will start. This commercial space craft flyer would be the first ever. It was designed with environment in mind too; the shuttle uses geothermal energy. Hopefully, after the first flight with NASA, the Virgin Galactic will be able to continue contracts with NASA, and move into commercial and tourism flights.