Virgin Galactic and NASA sign agreement to coordinate private space travel

Virgin Galactic and NASA sign agreement to coordinate private space travel

With an agreement between the parties, Virgin Galactic is responsible for connecting people who want to go to space with companies that can take them there

This Monday (22) the Virgin Galactic announced that it is officially entering the space tourism market, and that it will start coordinating private trips for people who want to leave Earth and go to visit International Space Station (ISS).

This is possible thanks to an agreement that the company signed with NASA, which will make the company responsible for the creation of a new program for the preparation and sending of astronauts from the private sector to space together with the United States space agency. This means that Virgin It will be responsible for connecting people or companies interested in sending someone to space with those who have the means to make this trip, in addition to coordinating all the necessary resources both on Earth and in space so that the trip is carried out with total security.

The agreement also certifies that all plans developed by Virgin Galactic will undergo review and approval of NASA before being put into practice, and the space agency will decree whether the company even has the capacity to organize an entire space program to send civilians to the ISS.

ISS nasa Partnership is part of NASA's plans to open the ISS for commercial purposes (Image: NASA)

As for this program, the Virgin Galactic has already decreed that it is developing all the training that will prepare these people not only for the rigors of space travel itself, but also the basics of what they will need to do to operate and live comfortably in the International Space Station and most likely this training will be carried out within the company's facilities at Spaceport America, a commercial space base located in the state of New Mexico.

This partnership with Virgin it is also part of a plan of the NASA in opening the ISS (a project that for decades has been used exclusively for academic and governmental purposes) for commercial purposes it is an ambition that will also allow Tom Cruise to star in the first film that will be recorded in space.

Virgin Galactic's future

virgin galactics VSS Unity suborbital spacecraft (Image: Virgin Galactic)

Although the objective of the project is similar to that of Space Adventures, a space tourism company focused on taking millionaire customers into space, Virgin Galactic stated that he is interested in a more varied range of customers, and will go looking not only for people who want to travel to space for leisure, but also companies and government agencies that want to send scientists and researchers to ISS in order to carry out experiments in microgravity environments.

The agreement with NASA also marks a shift in focus from Virgin Galactic, which for years has been dedicated to suborbital travel, using the jet plane VSS Unity to take passengers on the planet's orbit limits and make these people feel the effects of microgravity for a few moments before returning to the airstrip.

So far, the Virgin Galactic it has yet to carry out any commercial operations in the space tourism area, and in total it has sent only five people to the space just in test spaces. But the company says that its experience with suborbital flights, in addition to the fact that a large part of its employees have previously worked on space programs at NASA, makes it the perfect partner to manage a commercial launch program for the United States space agency.

How and where to watch the launch of manned space flight by SpaceX and NASA SpaceX Crew Dragon Ship is one of the transport options that can be hired by Virgin (Image: SpaceX)

Currently, the company has two options of vehicles that can be hired to send people to space: the ship Crew Dragon gives SpaceX, which recently successfully took two astronauts to the ISS and that sells each seat at an average of $ 60 million; and the Soyuz, the Russian ship that is relatively more expensive (about $ 80 million for each seat) but also the most reliable, as it has more than a decade of successful travel ISS on your resume.

In addition to these two options, the ship CST-100 Starliner gives Boeing appears as a possible third option that could be chartered by Virgin, but in addition to possibly being the most expensive (each seat is expected to cost about $ 90 million) the vehicle is still undergoing testing, and is only expected to take the first passengers out of orbit in mid-2021.

So far, the Virgin Galactic did not reveal which of these options will be prioritized by the company, but Mike Moses, president of the company and who previously worked at NASA, stated that her training program should take into account the particularities of the type of vehicle that customers will use to be transported out of orbit.

Source: Virgin Galactic