Virgin Galactic Hopes To Fly You From L.A. To Tokyo In One Hour
Virgin Galactic recently revealed plans to take travelers where no one has gone before: from Los Angeles to Tokyo through space in one hour.
This “point-to-point suborbital space transportation” would, according to Motherboard, involve a large plane dropping a spacecraft in midair so it can launch above the Earth and blast into space, similar to Virgin’s current SpaceShipTwo. The spaceship would use the force of gravity to basically surf in space, as the Daily Mail puts it; it would fall back toward Earth at high speeds and eventually use its own power to return to the ground. This system would massively cut down on travel time for longer flights, allowing travelers to reach just about any location in the world in two hours or less.
SpaceShipTwo, designed primarily for space tourism, is still in the testing phase, however, meaning that the future of commercial space flight is still a long way away. According to Spaceflight Insider, SpaceShipTwo will not begin its $250,000-per-seat commercial flights until next year.
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said he imagined a “SpaceShipThree or SpaceShipFour going outside the atmosphere, then coming back down outside an urban area and landing,” according to Motherboard. Although it’s not yet certain who these flights would be for — wealthy, thrill-seeking tourists? High-powered businessmen? People with a few hundred thousand dollars and no idea how to spend it? — the technology is definitely being explored, and not just by Virgin. The European Space Agency is reportedly looking into the idea of point-to-point spaceships, and DARPA has been researching the same concept for about 10 years, according to Motherboard.
With prices like these, Virgin Galactic most likely won’t supplant traditional flights, but it will offer a convenient (and awesome) alternative to day-long trips around the world.