- Title: Spaceport America crew calls Virgin Galactic launch a 'game-changer for space'
- Date: 11th July 2021
- Summary: VARIOUS OF COMPUTERS IN MISSION CONTROL AREA
- Embargoed: 25th July 2021 01:13
- Keywords: New Mexico's Spaceport America Richard Branson Space Virgin's Unity 22 mission space travel
- Location: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES
- City: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Science,Space Exploration,United States,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA003ELEAP8N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: While all eyes may be on Richard Branson on Sunday as he launches himself to the final frontier in his burgeoning astro-tourism venture, behind the scenes there will be dozens of aerospace workers at New Mexico's Spaceport America who've been preparing for this moment for years.
"To think this is now here finally reaching the point of commercialization where anybody who has the money and has the desire can buy a ticket and go to space, that is truly special. It's going to be a game-changer for space," said Dr. Bill Gutman, director of aerospace operations for Spaceport America.
The Spaceport's team has been working nonstop preparing for the launch, which will see Branson's Virgin Galactic Holding Inc's passenger rocket plane, the VSS Unity, on its first fully crewed test flight to the edge of space, with the British billionaire founder among the six individuals strapping in for the ride.
The operations center will be full of space flight enthusiast-employees, some of whom will be watching from mission control on the second level of an oval-shaped sphere of a building in the desert near the aptly named town of Truth or Consequences.
Alice Carruth, public relations coordinator, said its their team who will get the air space clearance from nearby White Sands Missile Range.
"Once we have that cleared and we know there's no other traffic in the area and we know it's safe to for them to be able to do their operations. We then hand over operations to mission control at Virgin Galactic and they make the call of go or no go," she said.
The gleaming white spaceplane will be borne by a twin-fuselage carrier jet dubbed VMS Eve (named for Branson's mother) to an altitude of 50,000 feet, where Unity will be released and soar by rocket power in an almost vertical climb through the outer fringe of Earth's atmosphere.
At the apex of its flight some 55 miles (89 km) above the New Mexico desert, the crew will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before making a gliding descent back to Earth.
If all goes according to plan, the flight will last about 90 minutes and end where it began - on the runway at Spaceport America.
"We call it a space-way," Carruth said.
Virgin's Unity 22 mission marks the 22nd test flight of the spacecraft, and the company's fourth crewed mission beyond Earth's atmosphere.
But it will be the first to carry a full complement of space travelers - two pilots and four "mission specialists," Branson among them.
Not only that, but it will be the first of many more flights to come, Gutman said.
"So I think one of the things that's going to be neat about this is if you're a space junkie, like many of us in this country are, if you want to see a launch, this is going to be the place to come because there are going to be so many launches and it's going to be so reliable because of the weather. If you want to see a launch and you realize that next Thursday's supposed to have one, there's going to be a very high probability that if you come to Spaceport America that day, you're going to see that launch," he said.
(Production: Julio-Cesar Chavez, Nathan Frandino)
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