Prof. Jagdish Sheth of
After the recommendation of Margaret Thatcher, Gorbachev invited Richard for a meeting at
During the Kazakhastan visit curiosity bug bit Richard. Can the price tag be lowered significantly? Since then he had been keeping tabs on anything and everything to do with going into the space. In 2002, Furton one of the leading space consultancies predicted that from 2011 there will be 2000 tourist astronauts a year. And as the costs come down by 2021 there will be 15000 a year and revenue potential will be $700 million a year. Richard felt that Furton study is pessimistic. He set a target price of $100,000 for a space tour.
The tipping point came with the announcement of Ansari X Prize by space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis 1996. The X Prize set a simple challenge: carry 3 people 100km above the Earth’s surface, twice within two weeks. The contest had 29 entrants but only three serious contenders. Of these, only one managed to get serious funding – SpaceShipOne or simply SS1. SS1 was backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
SS1 was started by Burt Rutan, the designer of Voyager, the largest all composite aeroplane ever built. It was made from glass, graphite and aramid and bonded with epoxies and resins. SS1 design extremely fault-tolerant and very green. Exactly how green? Well, a flight into the space and back would release less CO2 than equivalent of a person flying from
On 17 December 2003 SS1 broke through the sound barrier during its first manned test flight. On 21 June 2004, Mike Melvill flew SS1 above 100km altitude. This was space. After space flights on 29th Sept and 4th Oct 2004, SS1 won the Ansari X Prize. By then $100 million had been spent on the program. On 27 July 2005 Virgin Galactic and Burt announced a partnership where Burt’s company would undertake all the R&D and certification of the spacecraft and Virgin would do the marketing.
Wikipedia says - Richard unveiled the rocket plane on Monday 7th December 2009. SS2 was presented to the world in the Mojave desert, in
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