CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Virgin Galactic launches in an airplane-looking spacecraft instead of the rockets launched by Blue Origin and SpaceX.
Earlier Tuesday, Jeff Bezos blasted off on an 11-minute ride aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. Nine days before that launch, Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceplane carried Richard Branson just beyond the boundary of space.
With two historic launches just over a week apart, reality has set in that we have entered a new era of space travel. But some suborbital launches that only reach the edge of space may not be a possibility at Cape. Canaveral.
"You need a lot of space to land a capsule which has an imprecise landing area. Out here, we have a lot of swamp. We have the space, but we don’t have the ability to get to the crew in an area where it might land in a zone that might be in the middle of a swamp. We need to have access and we need to have a lot of room as well in order to have a space capsule go straight up and come right back down," said Derrol Nail, a NASA spokesperson.
Virgin Galactic launched earlier this month from its spaceport in New Mexico but is considering other sites around the world as it expands its business.
"Obviously, out at our old launch and landing facility, it is a perfect location for that in our mind--but we would have to demonstrate a business case for that to Sir Richard," said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida Vice President
Whether Bezos, Branson, or Elon Musk, billionaires will be essential to making space travel accessible to everyone.
"What we are seeing here now is the very beginning of opening up space tourism and space travel to everybody. Yes, right now it is for people who have a lot of means. But we think that as the economy of scales brings it down, it could be one day for everybody, and we are probably witnessing the beginning of that, Nail said.
Musk is up next at the plate. His mission, Inspiration 4, will send the world's first all-civilian crew into orbit for three days. It will launch pad 39a, planned for mid-September.
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