Tickets for an out-of-this-world trip on Virgin Galactic’s new SpaceShipTwo will set you back nearly £100 a second.
Set to be unveiled tonight, the second version of the craft, which can carry six passengers at a time, will cost US$250,000 – around £174,500 – with more than 700 people said to have signed up so far.
Total flight time of the trip will be around two hours, which includes a 60-minute journey from take-off to release from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier at approximately 50,000ft.
With independent flight time clocking in at around 30 minutes, based on the full price of a ticket, half an hour on the unsupported spaceship will cost £5,800 per minute ($8,333), or roughly about £97 per second.
Virgin Galactic have said passengers on the craft will experience the “unique thrills of spaceflight, enjoying the opportunity to leave seats to float in zero gravity for several minutes”.
And as part of the suborbital flight cost, the whole journey will be captured on film so that each astronaut has a “unique record of history in the making”.
Sir Richard Branson has said that he hopes the price of tickets will fall over time, and that more than 650 engineers have been working day and night for the last 15 months on the new craft.
He said they have done “a tremendous job” and described the spaceship as “beautiful”.
The SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design is described by the company as a reusable spaceplane that has been “built to dramatically increase the frequency and safety of space flight”.
The company said they aim to have more people flying to space in its first few years of service than have been there in the history of off-planet travel.
Virgin said the spaceplane uses much of the same technology, construction techniques and basic design of SpaceShipOne, but is much bigger.
Designed to carry two pilots and up to six passengers, from wing to wing the SS2 will measure 42 feet and 60 feet from nose to tail. There will also be large windows positioned throughout the cabin to allow maximum viewing for passengers.
Seats will also recline to maximise cabin space in microgravity and for comfort during re-entry.
All structural components of the SS2 are made from carbon composite. It is propelled by a controllable hybrid rocket motor, which uses a benign fuel and oxidiser and can be shut down at any time during flight.
On the journey, the spacecraft will be under forces of up to 6G. It will also reach supersonic speed within eight seconds of rocket ignition, with a maximum velocity of more than Mach 3.5.
Those purchasing tickets will undertake three days of preparation at New Mexico’s Spaceport America to ensure a “safe, enjoyable and unforgettable journey” before they travel.
Virgin Galactic have said they will officially launch operations from Spaceport America with paying passengers once they believe it is safe to do so, and they have received all regulatory approvals.
It is understood that the third and fourth spaceships are now in the very early stages of production.