Sunday, February 21, 2016

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic unveils new spacecraft ‘Unity’

On Feb. 19, Virgin Galactic unveiled a new spacecraft that promises to provide space travel to the general public. Despite the 2014 failure of SpaceShipTwo’s predecessor, which resulted in the death of the copilot, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is confident that ‘Unity’ will be a success. Virgin Galactic is a company which develops commercial spacecraft and uses innovative technology to provide suborbital spaceflights to customers.

The first point I would like to emphasize is how Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will successfully carry passengers into space. The spaceship, titled ‘Unity’, would be mounted onto the bottom of a larger ship, which is referred to as WhiteKnightTwo. Once the larger ship has reached 40,000 feet in the air, it would release Unity and the spaceship would ignite its engines and fly past the edge of space. At a distance of 100 km, passengers would be able to see the threshold of space, from within the ship.

Another point that is important to gather from this new technology, is the tragic failure that it had resulted in just 16 months ago. The first version of SpaceShipTwo came apart during flight and killed the copilot on board. The pilot was severely injured, when ejected 40,000 feet into a desert area. After a nine-month investigation it was found that the accident was caused from pilot error and a lack of safeguards. Virgin Galactic claims that they will undergo various tests in order to ensure that Unity will not result in any casualties.

Lastly, I would like to address how Unity differs from its first version, which broke apart mid flight. This new technology is now equipped with fail-safes in order to ensure that there are no errors made by the pilot. The new technology also contains a new rocket engine that utilizes a rubber-like fuel to achieve more efficient combustion. 

While it is not addressed in the article, it is important to note that space travel will not be for the general public any time soon. While individuals who are not astronauts may be able to enter space, it is only the 1% of Americans who can afford to do so, which limits the opportunities that space travel can have for all individuals. Additionally, 16 months is not enough time to ensure that the casualty that occurred with the first version of SpaceShipTwo will not happen again, with possibly more fatalities. Lastly, it is important to address the fact that no mention of how the spaceship will land back onto earth is present. Whether or not these space crafts can be operated to land safely from space onto a designated platform, is imperative in ensuring the safety of space travel. 

Works Cited: 
 Betters, Elysse. "VSS Unity Explained: Here's the Scoop on Virgin Galactic's New SpaceShipTwo." - Pocket-lint. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 

 Davenport, Christian. "Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Unveils New Spacecraft ‘Unity’." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. 
 VideoFromSpace. "Sir Richard Branson Rolls Out New SpaceShipTwo 'Unity' | Raw Video." YouTube. YouTube, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting article, Miranda. The technological advancements towards space exploration is truly amazing. Even though it is exciting that the general public may be able to experience human life as we know it from a new perspective only few astronauts have been able to witness; this new innovation also poses many liabilities. It is sad to hear of the failure of the first SpaceShipTwo, but it shows how much more work has to be done before this will actually be accessible to the public. And on the topic of the public, the article, and yourself, state how this mere space adventure would only be financially possible to the wealthy 1%. I myself, have no aspirations of traveling to space in my lifetime, however, the development of this new technology still fascinates me about what the future holds. I believe after the first failure, Virgin Group will continue to make more adjustments and one day will the the foundation of everyday space travel.


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