Virgin Galactic which is part of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, revealed the cabin interior of the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo. It is designed to carry people and payloads to suborbital space and back.
The unveiling was originally planned to be an in-person event. However, due to the current ongoing pandemic, Virgin Galactic decided to make the cabin unveiling a virtual one. It took the enthusiasts on a virtual walkthrough of the cabin which revealed the inside and the outside of the spacecraft in augmented reality.
The SpaceShipTwo is hauled aloft by a big plane called WhiteKnightTwo, which drops the spacecraft at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). SpaceShipTwo’s onboard rocket motor then kicks on, blasting the vehicle up to suborbital space.
It has revealed the interior of its centrepiece space plane, showing off a cabin with new 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.
For $250,000 a ticket, passengers who have signed up for the suborbital flight aboard the air-launched plane VSS Unity will strap into six tailored seats and be able to peer out of the cabin’s 12 circular windows as they ascend 97km (60 miles) above Earth. The plane has five other windows.
Virgin Galactic chief space officer George Whitesides said passengers could unbuckle themselves at peak altitude to float around the cabin in zero-gravity conditions.
The seats are spaced far apart with a walkway between them, running down the centre aisle of the spacecraft. The back wall of the fuselage sported a giant silver mirror displaying a warped reverse image of the cabin. The mirror will provide customers with a live look at themselves in microgravity.
“I think it is just a brilliant design choice. It’s probably the biggest mirror put in a spaceship or a space vehicle or a space habitat. And the idea there is that people can actually experience themselves in space and get a sense of what that looks like visually.”George Whitesides
Every seat has a big circular window, with a thick black rim. Another window was positioned directly above each passenger’s head. When the crew makes it to microgravity, they’ll be able to float from the side window to the ceiling window with ease. The rims around the windows also had tiny crevices — handholds for floating passengers to grab in order to peer out the glass.
Passengers will get to see the curvature of Earth against the blackness of space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before they come back home for a runway landing. The cabin is designed to accentuate this dramatic and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sixteen cameras are situated throughout the cabin to capture the experiences of future crews. Each window had a camera to snap up-close moments of wonder, while other cameras on the floor and the ceiling will provide more comprehensive views of the floating passengers. Each customer would get ample documentation of their experience and the footage can be downloaded immediately after the flight.
The company has 600 customers signed up to fly and at least 400 more who have expressed interest. No date has been set for its first commercial space flight. British founder Sir Richard Branson is expected to be aboard.