Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic poised for commercial space tourism

In a significant development, Richard Branson’s space tourism firm Virgin Galactic, revealed the interior of its space plane, displaying the cabin sporting custom seats and a “space mirror” in a virtual tour of what its passengers can expect to experience on flights to the edge of space.

Passengers who sign up for such trips, costing $250,000, will be seated and strapped into six tailored, teal-colored seats and will be able to peer out of the cabin’s 12 circular windows as the plane ascend to 97 km (60 miles) above the Earth.

The plane has five other windows up front.

“We have amazing seats that will be tailored to each person, and that move during the flight to maximize people’s comfort,” said Virgin Galactic’s Chief Space Officer George Whitesides while adding that passengers can unbuckle themselves at peak altitude to float around the cabin in zero-gravity conditions.

Virgin Galactic has 600 customers who have signed up to fly to outer space with more than 400 more who have expressed interest, said Whitesides. So far, the company has not set a firm date for its first commercial space flight, wherein its British founder Branson is expected to be aboard.

The cabin, revealed in a virtual-reality headset the company provided to journalists and paying customers, also features a large, circular mirror “to allow our customers to see themselves in space in a way that has really never been done before,” said Whitesides.

The plane, being piggybacked by a bigger carrier plane, is intended to take off from the company’s New Mexico spaceport and detach mid-air to launch further toward the edge of space in a trip lasting 90 minutes.

Virgin Galactic is on track to clear its final testing milestones to obtain a commercial operating license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration after it conducts “a small number of flights” carrying four test passengers, said Whitesides during a news briefing.

He went on to add, Virgin Galactic could increase ticket prices in the near future but hopes to make the experience more affordable to “as many people as possible.”

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