Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Airlines enters early test flight with zero gravity trip

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

Welcome to Zero G, an exclusive CNN Travel destination video look at one of the world’s most extravagant space tours: The Zero G Experience, launched by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

If you’ve ever wanted to be strapped into a life-sized jet in the stratosphere, a new offering from one of the world’s biggest airlines should have you busy.

Billed as the first airline to offer full experiences with a suborbital flight to the edge of space, Virgin Galactic’s Zero G Experience allows customers to embark on a full-body virtual reality flight before exiting back to earth. It’s a perk that comes with a hefty price tag.

Perfectly timed for its launch on April 3, the Zero G Experience on offer will cost passengers a minimum of $65,000. From here they’ll cruise at an altitude of 62 miles — the boundary of outer space — before splitting into separate adults and children.

After a 3.5-hour flight, the small number of kids will take off on a small rocket to fly back to Earth in a “static aircraft” for the remainder of the journey.

“The flight gives you a super enhanced sense of calm and tranquility,” said Bryce Stigas, Virgin Galactic’s in-house experiential design expert. “You are truly able to step out into the open and really experience the zero gravity because your body is constantly oriented upside down.

“Every time you have to face your body and come back down to the normal equilibrium, you feel a sense of discomfort.”

This feeling of discomfort is part of the point, according to Virgin Galactic.

See Japanese billionaire blast off into space

Fascinating views

The company is planning on two trips per month, each time lasting 30 minutes. Fittingly, Branson, chairman of Virgin Galactic, will be amongst the passengers.

The company’s “New Space” site, located in Mojave, California, will take the passengers up to an altitude of 50 miles — the necessary height for crewed suborbital space flights. From there they’ll glide back towards earth.

Virgin Galactic say they will attempt to launch flights from New Mexico in New Mexico in late 2018.

For some, this is a dream come true. Both Stigas and Virgin Galactic’s COO Ed Mierzwinski previously worked at XCOR Aerospace, the company that launched in 2012 the Lynx suborbital rocket vehicle, and its forthcoming suborbital SpaceShipTwo

“When you are taking a seat on that flight, you are not taking a seat on a science fiction dream machine,” said Mierzwinski. “You are taking a seat on the day that this is one day possible.”

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