March 1, 2011

Virgin Galactic Sending Scientists Into Space

Virgin Galactic said on Monday that its commercial space flight program will not include just sending space tourists into space, but also scientists who will conduct research experiments.

Virgin Galactic signed a contract with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) that was the first agreement to fly scientists into space.

SwRI made deposits for two researchers to fly on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft at $200,000 per person.

Virgin Galactic said that SwRI plans to make similar arrangements for six additional scientists, for a total of $1.6 million.

SwRI will fly its own researchers as well as payloads and personnel of other American researchers.

"Virgin Galactic will be able to offer researchers flights to space that are unprecedented in frequency and cost," George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic, said in a statement. "Science flights will be an important growth area for the company in the years to come, building on the strong commercial success already demonstrated by deposits received from over 400 individuals for Virgin's space experience."

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, said last year that the company plans to be taking passengers into space in nine to 18 months. 

The company recently unveiled Spaceport America as the first commercial space port.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon test capsule launched successfully from Florida's Kennedy Space Center in December.


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