Two competing billionaires have launched successful space travel in the race for commercial space travel. Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesdayon the New Shepard spacecraft. Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson last week on his own plane. Here are the differences between the two flights.
Bezos and three teammates took off from the Blue Origin launch site in West Texas and soared to an altitude of more than 62 miles above Earth.
Branson, two pilots and three other crew members flew the VSS Unity spacecraft. They took off from the company’s Spaceport America launch site on July 11 near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Although the take-off locations and methods are different, their goals for commercial spaceflight are similar, reports Bill Harwood, senior space analyst at CBS News.
“At the end of the day, they’re selling the same thing. They’re selling about three minutes of weightlessness and out-of-atmosphere flights,” Harwood told CBSN presenter Anne-Marie Green before Bezos’ flight on Tuesday. “How they get there, however, is different.”
Blue Origin chose a capsule mounted on top of a rocket. “I remember Alan Shepard and his first Mercury flight which was a rocket thruster and capsule,” said Harwood, referring to NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, the first person from the United States to travel. in space, in 1961.
“It’s the same philosophy, and just like that original Mercury flight, they have a dropout system, so they can get away from the rocket if it malfunctions,” Harwood said.
Original bluewhich carried the capsule containing Bezos and his teammates, was named after Shepard.
The spacecraft traveled three times the speed of sound, and once it reached an altitude of about 45 miles, the company-designed BE-3 main engine shut down and the capsule was released for fly on her own, Harwood said.
Bezos and his teammates were then able to enjoy three minutes of weightlessness, as the capsule peaked just above 62 miles.
It is the internationally recognized “boundary” between aerodynamically discernible atmosphere and space, a distinction recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, a Swiss-based organization that sanctions aerospace records.
The Virgin Galactic spaceplane flew slightly lower, but well above the 50-mile altitude recognized as the limit of space by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration, Harwood said.
The design of the Virgin Galactic spaceplane is an aerial launch, which means that another plane will take it to about 45,000 feet and then release it. A rocket engine then ignites and transports the plane into space.
For the Virgin Galactic model, the rocket is an integral part of the space plane. “They can stop it and then hover for a landing if there’s a problem, but you don’t stray from it that way. You can get away from your rocket with Blue Origin,” Harwood said.
Branson and his crew also enjoyed the weightlessness and live streamed their trip as they floated freely from their seats. Only audio from inside the Blue Origin capsule was played, and Bezos and his team could be heard shouting “woo-hoo”.
Eight minutes after takeoff, three parachutes deployed on the Blue Origin crew capsule to slow it down before landing as it descended back to Earth. The flight lasted about 10 minutes.
The pilots guided the Virgin Galactic spacecraft through a spiral descent and landed on Spaceport America’s 12,000-foot-long runway. The flight lasted 59 minutes from takeoff to landing.
Both launches are over, but the space race is not over. Blue Origin plans to launch two more passenger flights before the end of the year, but ticket prices have not been disclosed.
Flights on the Virgin Galactic space plane are said to cost around $ 250,000. Both companies hope the market will support economies of scale and lower prices eventually.