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We are one step away from the air space tourism


“Space, the last frontier…”

This is what Captain Kirk once said in the incipit of the famous Star Trek series, started in 1966.

Today, it seems that we are ready to break down these frontiers. Not only do we start exploring new planets – the next launch to Mars is scheduled for 2024 with the Starship spacecraft designed by Elon Musk, but also send real paying tourists into the space.
And Italy is at the forefront in this science-fiction project with a spaceport, which might already be active by 2020 in Puglia, in the Taranto-Grottaglie area. The spaceport is already part of an international program for the fuselage production of Boeing 787Dreamliner“, it was selected as the European strategic infrastructure for the growth of the industrial and academic systems in the aeronautical and aerospace sector.

Thanks to the agreement between Altec and Virgin Galactic, the first suborbital flights could be launched directly from our peninsula. And this, in addition to breaking the frontiers of the touristic flights, also means opening the access to all of the induced activities which are around this new business (astronaut training, testing new technologies, sector industries, services, research centres, etc.).

Almost everything is ready, there is only one law missing that regulates the airspace over the ordinary quota of scheduled flights and ENAC together with the American Federal Aviation Administration is working on developing regulations inspired by those that are already in use in the United States.

But how will this space airport be?

In reality, it will be very similar to a traditional airport, because the take-off of the spaceship will not be vertical but will have the same position as a regular aircraft. Therefore, it will require a runway, wings and lots and lots of speed.

The existing Grottaglie structures fully satisfy the requirements of the runway and of the space, this is why the Virgin Galactic has chosen it as its only spaceport outside the USA.
Therefore, it will be necessary to modify the existing plant and, probably, to add hangars, spaces for new technical and scientific activities and the annexed services for the luxury flights among the stars.

Until now, Virgin Galactic is still testing its “panoramic shuttle”.
It is called “SpaceKnightTwo” and it will fly up to 15 km. At that height, the aircraft will release the spaceship – SpaceShipTwo – which, once the engines are on, will fly up to 100 km. This small rocket is capable of accommodating six passengers and two crew members and take them to space.

An incredible experience of microgravity that will only last six minutes, during which you will be able to flutter inside the cabin and look at the earth from above, before descending for the return.
This journey will last approximately one hour and 40 minutes, from the moment of take-off to the return, at a cost of $ 250,000 per person.

Obviously, considering the prices, we are talking about a luxury tourism which, for the moment, is within the reach of only a few, but it is rumoured that there is already a list of over 600 passengers ready to go, apparently including Leonardo di Caprio and Lady Gaga.

Certainly, we are talking about the most expensive six minutes in the world, but not only from the point of view of the boarding ticket price …
In fact, there are also some controversies related to this new business, because the real problem is the produced pollution.
The consumption of energy required for a trip of this type is unprecedented and equal to twice the energy needed of an American family in a year. Not a little, I would say …

And certainly, there is much to think about, even though – I do not hide it – the idea of being able to bring ordinary people into orbit to see the earth from above and experience the weightlessness is extremely exciting!

In any case, if you are interested and want to reserve yourself a place in orbit, you should know that the tickets are already available on the Internet, starting from the same Virgin Galactic website up to several Tour Operators that are gathering the requests. And although, on the Virgin Galactic website the seats are sold out, do not despair, because Richard Branson is not the only one working on the space tourism, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos also thought about it.
Bezos from his side has the colossal safe of Amazon and Musk has the confidence of the investors and the capacity to reduce the costs that opens the way to the space tourism also to companies with limited means.

For the moment, we know that Bezos’ shuttle, called New Shepard, has already taken the empty crew capsule into the suborbital space. Just like in the case of Virgin, there will be six passenger seats in a 15 cubic meters space and for each armchair there will be a window of over a meter that will permit to fully enjoy the view.
The costs? It is rumoured to be around $ 300,000.

Elon Musk, on the other hand, has already sold the first ticket for a trip around the Moon with the SpaceX Bfr rocket.

Unlike Virgin, the latter are the real shuttles with vertical take-off.

In short, all we have to do is wait for the first touristic flight, which perhaps will take-off from Puglia!

And now we have one interesting fact for you:

The first space tourist was Denis Tito, an astronaut entrepreneur, who in April 2001 joined the Sojuz TM-32 and remained in space for 7 days for the modest sum of 20 million dollars.


That Aviation Italia: the broker always one step ahead!

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