Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
October 27th, 2017
Imagine it. Two new Meccas, one on the Moon, the other on Mars.
Sounds ridiculous? Perhaps not so much after Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud announced that he was going to invest $1 billion in Virgin Galactic and that company’s efforts to develop a commercial tourism space plane and a small-satellite launcher.
As well, Al-Saud also talked about creating an entirely new, space-centric entertainment industry to bolster the civilian tourist flights being offered by Virgin Galactic, saying “The future of Saudi Arabia is one of innovation, as showcased at this week’s Future Investment Initiative, and it’s through partnerships with organizations like Virgin Group that we will make active contributions to those sectors and technologies that are driving progress on a global scale,”
The investment comes at a crucial time for Virgins Galactic and its spacecraft, which include the VSS Unity space plane and the LauncherOne booster to send small satellites into orbit.
Ars Technica. reports Virgin founder Richard Branson said in a news release that both of Virgin’s space efforts are close to operation and that the new funding will also aid future endeavors. “We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic going into space with people on board and Virgin Orbit going into orbit and placing satellites around the Earth,” he said. “This investment will enable us to develop the next generation of satellite launches and accelerate our program for point to point supersonic space travel.”
It may be best to take what Branson says with a grain of salt, because he has faced setbacks in his drive for space, and has been saying his spacecraft would be commercially ready since 2009. His initial estimates are long overdue.
Virgin Galactic’s space tourism program suffered a significant setback in 2014 with an in-flight accident that killed 39-year-old co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injured 43-year-old pilot Peter Siebold.
A new version of the spaceship, VSS Unity, has completed several “glide” tests in 2016 and 2017, but it has yet to undergo powered tests.
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