It’s not just space agencies exploring the space beyond our skies — private companies have a hand in it too. Both SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have seen their missions take a step or two forward, in some very different ways.
SpaceX has set a tentative date for the first orbital test of its Starship rocket (which will probably end with it exploding on contact with the Hawaiian ocean), while Virgin Galactic officially has permission to take passengers to the edge of space.
SpaceX is going up
The private spacefaring company making all the headlines at the moment is “…shooting for July” to execute its first orbital test of the Starship rocket, according to CNBC. That’s according to SpaceX head Gwynne Shotwell, speaking at the virtual International Space Development Conference. We’re not sure what their reasoning for the date is, but we’re sure it’s got nothing to do with former Amazon head Jeff Bezos heading into space on the same month. At all.
Up to this point, SpaceX’s Starship has only gone up and down. The first orbital test will see the rocket take off from Texas, enter a low-Earth orbit, travel around the planet and then splash down in Hawaii — which seems like a good place to end the test. It’s a test that has to happen, and Shotwell said, “…We are really on the cusp of flying that system, or at least attempting the first orbital flight of that system, really in the very near term.”
Virgin Galactic gets the go-ahead
Virgin Galactic was one of the first companies to offer space tourism but it’s also taken the longest to bring it about. The company has, finally, received permission from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the States to take passengers to the edge of orbit, following the successful test of VSS Unity in May this year. This is the first time the FAA has issued such a license.
Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic CEO, said, “[The] approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
Lots of people ask: how do rovers like me and @MarsCuriosity take our own selfies? It’s not as easy as a quick smartphone snap. See how it’s done with the help of my team back on Earth: https://t.co/SL7nQkYh91 pic.twitter.com/Uzcne5RiTa
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) June 25, 2021
And just so NASA doesn’t feel left out today, the Perseverance Rover team has shared exactly how Perseverance and Curiosity take selfies of themselves roaming around on the surface of Mars. As with all social media images, it turns out that it’s a rather complicated process and many shots are taken before creating that perfect one.