A full-scale conceptual mock-up of the interior of Virgin Galactic's VSS (Virgin SpaceShip) Enterprise, the Virgin Group's frontier-breaking spacecraft, has been exclusively revelealed at New York's WIRED NextFest event. Displayed within the context of a scaled-up SpaceShipOne, the conceptual interior of the new spaceship was designed by leading British product designers Seymourpowell. Richard Branson called the launch 'a new era in the history of space travel.'
Designed ultra-ergonomically to ensure maximum comfort, space and visibility for each group of two pilots and six consumer astronauts on each individual mission, the conceptual interior features a 6-passenger-seater cabin, where specially-designed seats (in three rows of two) will move from their 60 degree upright angle for take-off and flight to an almost-horizontal 'submarined' angle as the astronauts become free to move around the cabin, experiencing the wonders of zero gravity. The astronauts then come back to their seats in the submarined position as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere; this helps them remain comfortable with the G Forces experienced as the Spaceship decelerates. The seats then return once again to the upright position for the glide home.
The conceptual interior has been designed by Seymourpowell to explore ways of maximising cabin space for the most exhilarating zero gravity experience. There are also fifteen windows in total in the mock-up craft, including floor windows for the best possible views of the earth (with integral hand holds for the period of weightlessness). Passengers will be able to watch, during their ascent, as the cobalt blue sky turns to mauve, indigo and eventually to black, even though it will still be daytime! The ultimate view of the earth will be over a thousand miles in any direction - for example, a flight over London would afford views of North Africa.
A bulkhead divides the astronauts from the pilot and co-pilot and features four large-scale dials, which inform the astronauts of the mission time, the speed of the spaceship, its altitude and the changing G-forces being experienced by the astronauts.
The journey onboard the VSS Enterprise will begin on a runway (rather than a launch pad, as with a conventional rocket). The craft will be carried underneath a mothership to almost 10 miles above sea level, before the countdown begins and the craft is released from the mother ship, accelerating passengers at 4G to a speed faster than a bullet. The spaceship will come back into the earth's atmosphere in a shuttlecock formation with unique 'feathering' wings and, at around 80,000 feet, will return to a glider-like configuration for the spaceport runway landing.
Launch of New Animation
Seymourpowell have also created an animation which is designed to bring the Virgin Galactic astronaut experience to life, from take-off to landing, and this be will shown for the first time at the NextFest event. Seymourpowell director and co-founder Dick Powell, commented: 'This really is an inspirational project. All the team at Virgin Galactic have been a pleasure to work with and have been very open to ideas in what is a truly paradigm-shifting craft. It was also very exciting to work with Philippe Starck at the briefing stage of the project. Philippe helped to set the design parameters of the conceptual interior at the outset, on behalf of Virgin Galactic, and saved us a lot of time and trouble by his clarity of vision and his emphasis on creating an interior space that was as clean and simple as possible.'
Background to the Project
Virgin Galactic is a company established by Richard Branson's Virgin Group to undertake the challenge of developing safe, commercially viable and environmentally friendly access to space. The company will own and operate privately-built spaceships, modelled on the ground-breaking SpaceShipOne craft (created by the world's premier aviation designer Burt Rutan, together with space entrepreneur and visionary Paul G Allen (through his company Mojave Aerospace Ventures), who together won the coveted $10 million X-Prize) Virgin Galactic, was launched in London on September 27th 2005 at the Royal Aeronautical Society. Virgin licensed the intellectual property rights from Mojave Aerospace Ventures to develop and build the world's first private commercial spaceships for sub-orbital tourism, with plans to develop a science research and payload deployment capability in the future.
'We hope to create thousands of astronauts over the next few years', commented Richard Branson, 'and bring alive their dream of seeing the majestic beauty of our planet from above, the stars in all their glory and the amazing sensations of weightlessness and space flight. The development will also allow every country in the world to have their own astronauts rather than the privileged few.'