Take a look inside the cabin of Virgin Galactic's spaceship, where flights cost US$250,000
TORONTO -- Virgin Galactic have unveiled the cabin design for their spaceship, marking a new step in their quest to dominate space tourism.
Those with a heart full of adventure and a wallet full of money may get to travel in these very spaceship cabins in the not-so-distant future.
Virgin Galactic, which is the branch of Virgin dedicated to developing space tourism, first displayed their cabin design to the world in a dramatic YouTube livestream on Tuesday morning, complete with a countdown to the grand reveal.
In the promotional video, a sleek rocketship with extended wing tips trailing gracefully behind it flies over the Earth. The Virgin logo gleams from its body.
It is SpaceShipTwo, where customers will enter the lower fringes of space to float in zero gravity and take in spectacular views of the planet they just paid a fortune to leave.
The sub-orbital flights cost US$250,000, and more than 600 people have already signed up.
“Today, we’re sharing the culmination of incredible creativity, unswerving dedication, and total commitment of realizing our dream of opening space to change the world for good,” Michael Colglazier, the new CEO of Virgin Galactic, said in the video.
In the actual reveal of the cabin, Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ plays as the camera turns slowly around a virtual rendering of the space, tracing over grey seats with blue and teal detailing, in which the tourist astronauts will sit in on their journey.
The star of the design is the windows inside the spacecraft: there are 17 circular windows in total, surrounded by round windowsills that provide a grip for passengers to hold onto as they navigate around the cabin.
“In zero G, the cabin essentially becomes a 360 degree climbing frame,” said Jeremy Brown, Design Director for the project.
And the windows don’t just sit by each seat, the way they do on a plane -- they also curve up across the roof in lines to allow the occupants to see outside from all angles.
It is a many-eyed look at space.
“The cabin is special because, while it’s been created to integrate seamlessly in every other aspect of our astronaut journey, it is also the design centrepiece,” said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.
Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo isn’t designed for only tourism, but to transport researchers as well, with the seats able to be swapped out for whatever experiments a scientist might need to bring up into space.
However, the company isn’t ready to actually throw scientists or anyone with US$250,000 up into space yet. You can only reserve seats so far.
In the race to get tourists in space, their main competition is likely to be Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which became the first private company to send people into orbit this spring. The company has teamed up with Space Adventures Inc. of Vienna, Virginia to try and send tourists into space late next year.
This mission would skip the space station and instead orbit two to three times higher for better view of Earth, and would last around five days. However, the cost is even higher than Virgin Galactic’s offering: around $35 million.
A year ago, Virgin Galactic performed two successful suborbital flights with their spacecraft, proving that their space tourism plan does have legs -- or, wings and jets.
Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, was the first person to fly within the cabin of SpaceShipTwo as a passenger to assess the trip.
In their prototype process, they looked at not only how passengers would move about the cabin, “but how the cabin moves about you when you are floating and weightless,” Moses said.
“It just engulfed me,” she said of seeing the Earth through the windows of the spacecraft for the first time.
“Probably the standout moment of my life: floating free in the ship and the ship came to a stop above Earth, and it felt endless.”
She said the cabin should be an “almost invisible, but perfect supporting act,” and that the trip will succeed for tourists if the view of Earth and the sensation of being in space “are the star.”
As part of this, the seats recline when you leave them at the peak of the journey, in order to provide more space for passengers to “enjoy weightlessness,” Brown said.
The seat backs have individual digital displays to show the passengers live flight data, such as the speed they are currently going, or the G forces they are feeling.
The cabin is also outfitted with sixteen cameras, so those wanting the perfect Instagram photo of their journey in space won’t need to bring their phone up with them.
At the back of the cabin is one final surprise: a giant circular mirror, so you can see exactly how your hair looks without gravity, in the moment itself.
And when the spacecraft is over Earth, all the lights will be shut off inside the cabin, allowing the glow of the planet to be the only light for passengers.
“This is probably the most exciting design project in the world right now,” said George Whitesides, Chief Space Officer of Virgin Galactic.
If it all sounds pretty nice, it’s important to remember the price tag.
Seats could get even more expensive in the future, once space flights are actually off the ground — according to an FAQ on Virgin Galactic’s website, they “may be able to offer a range of prices, but […] will initially be charging more than the US$250,000 price point offered to those who signed up early.”
Branson said that they are aiming to expand their fleet and “cement Virgin Galactic as the space line for Earth.”