Fewer than 25 suborbital spaceflights have ever been conducted
Most suborbital launches were conducted with vehicles retired decades ago
No suborbital flight has ever carried a paying passenger
There is no agreement on what even constitutes a suborbital spaceflight
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
When Richard Branson and three Virgin Galactic employees strap into their seats aboard SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity on Sunday, they will briefly go where not very many have gone before: suborbital space.
Of the 374 attempts to launch astronauts to space since Yuri Gagarin flew into Earth orbit 60 years ago, only 23 were suborbital flights. The majority of those launches were conducted during the 1960’s using vehicles that long ago became museum pieces. One ended with the loss of the spacecraft and its pilot. And two flights were unintentional ones involving vehicles being launched into Earth orbit.
After 15 years of making extravagant but unkept promises to fly more than 600 “future astronauts” to space, Richard Branson must now please an entirely new group of people who are usually much shorter on patience: shareholders.
Following the completion last week of a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), the British billionaire’s Virgin Galactic suborbital “space line” will begin trading under its own name on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday.
Going public now is an unusual move for a space tourism company that hasn’t flown a singlet tourist to space since Branson announced the SpaceShipTwo program in 2004. Some might see it has putting the cart before the horse.
Republican Steve Knight was sworn into Congress today as the new House representative for California’s 25th District, replacing retiring Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon.
Knight, who had been a supporter of the space industry while serving in the California State Senate, has been appointed to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, whose responsibilities include NASA, FAA and other agencies.
He is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Small Business Committee.
California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, could be heading to Congress next year with the pending retirement of Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita).
McKeon, 75, announced on Thursday that he would not seek an 11th term representing California’s 25th District, which includes parts of the aerospace-rich Antelope Valley that Knight represents in the State Legislature. Knight earlier stated that he would run for Congress if McKeon decided not to seek re-election.
Knight is one of several Republican and Democratic candidates who have already declared their intentions to run for the position. The 25th District includes the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster and the southern Antelope Valley. The region has a proud aviation and space heritage, hosting Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works as well as the facilities where the space shuttles were built. The district is home to many employees who work at nearby Edwards Air Force Base and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.
California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, says he will run for Congress next year in the 25th District should the current office holder, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), decides to retire, the Antelope Valley Press reported today.
McKeon, 75, has not announced his plans, but there is widespread speculation in political circles that he will elect to step down next year rather than seek another two-year term, the newspaper reported.
The state senator, whose father William J. “Pete” Knight flew the X-15 rocket plane, has been a key backer of commercial space measures in the California Legislature. He introduced a limited liability bill designed to protect commercial space providers from passenger lawsuits that was approved with revisions. He also has introduced several other commercial space bills now being considered by legislators.