Company Profile: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has made some great strides in it's own goal to making a suborbital space trip a reality for "average" people, so I thought we'd learn a little about this enterprising company.  The video is, of course, an infomercial, but an inspiring one, so take a look and then read on about the company history.

Founder Sir Richard Burton was first inspired by the moon landings of 1969, when he was 19.  In 1995, he spoke with Buzz Aldrin about the cheapest and safest way to get people into space.  They came to the conclusion that a system where the spaceship is first lifted into the atmosphere, then launched--like the X15 project--was the best bet, and Burton kept an eye out for the technologies to make it work.
Meanwhile Dr. Peter Diamandis started a project called the X Prize to promote innovation.  He offered $10 million to the first non-government organization to launch a reusable spacecraft twice in a two-week period.  Burt Rutan, owner of Scaled Composites, decided to enter.  When a Virgin Galactic team touring his company heard about it, they spoke to Sir Richard Burton, who decided to back him in his efforts.  (An interesting side note: Rutan was also being financed by Paul Allen, who co-founded Miscrosoft.  Guess I can't growl too badly at my computer now.)

In 2004, just two days before the X Prize launch, Virgin Galactic had a launch of its own, publically announcing its intent to start up space tourism and setting up a website.  The website promptly crashed because it attracted so many visitors.  The offered advanced booking on a flight into space for the amazing price of $200,000.  (To date, they have over 400 people lined up.)  On September 29 and October 4, SpaceShipOne completed its flights and won the X Prize.  Virgin Galactic was on the way!

Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites formed "the Spaceship Company" in 2005 in order to make its fleet.  These ships, called SpaceShipTwo, were bigger to hold six passengers, and had a new design to make re-entry easier.  In 2009, the first of the new ships was unveiled--and dubbed "Enterprise."  (What else could it be?)  Its test flight didn't take place until 2010, but went flawlessly, as did its test of the feathered flight system in 2011.

Construction on Spaceport America began in New Mexico in 2007, and was completed in 2011.  They named it "Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space."

Sometime in 2012, they will have their first flights. 

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