Of the more than 400 companies Sir Richard Branson owns, Virgin Galactic, a spaceflight company within Virgin group has captivated a great deal of attention throughout the world in recent years. Now, Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas’ label Y-3, are teaming up with Virgin Galactic to create apparel fit for space.
Essential to this partnership, Y-3 recently unveiled prototypes of its flight suit and boot at the Spaceport America in New Mexico — home to Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space terminal for civilian flight.
Astronauts will sample the apparel during Virgin Galactic’s flight test program, to ensure the suits are practical to wear while piloting a commercial space flight, according to a statement issued by the two companies.
Tailored for safety and comfort, the flight suits will be constructed using 3D-engineered advanced fabrics such as Nomex — a heat-resistant material manufactured from strong synthetic fibers.
The flight boot contains leather and will feature special out soles and heel inserts that will function to provide extra grip and maximize shock absorption.
Virgin Galactic’s announced just yesterday that their new spaceship will start flight tests in Mojave in the “near future,” the company said.
The first test for “SpaceShipTwo”, dubbed VSS Unity will be what the company references as a “captive carry”. In this instance, the spaceship will stay attached to its carrier, the White Knight Two aircraft for the entire flight. During this test phase, aerodynamic performance data will be gathered, in addition to testing one of the “abort modes” — essentially when Space Ship Two remains with the carrier aircraft in the event of a technical issue, in which case it will return to the airport.
In a separate phase of testing, Virgin Galactic will progress to glide tests in which Space Ship Two will be released from its carrier aircraft to fly solo.
Dubbed “SpaceShipTwo” (without the use of a space bar and no pun intended) Virgin Galactic says that eventually it will begin carrying tourists, who have paid up to $250,000, into space. Richard Branson is among the first said to be on that exclusive list for the launch. When this happens, the spaceship will be released at approximately 50,000 feet by the carrier aircraft, then propelled by a rocket to more than 50 miles above the Earth — a point at which NASA along with the U.S. Air Force consider a passenger to be certified as an astronaut — not a mere flight passenger. This will no doubt be an emotional event, as the first manned flight since the lamentable October 2014 crash that killed one of two test pilots over the Mohave Desert.
At this time last year, the National Transportation Safety Board stated that the spaceship broke apart due to pilot error. Specifically, the copilot was cited for having opened the aircraft’s movable tail prematurely. The NTSB report was quite harsh and placed most of the blame on Mojave-based Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp. The NTSB went on t say that the plane’s design should have protected against the possibility of plot error.
The Federal Aviation Administration did not escape responsibility in the NTSB report either. The FAA was cited for its failure at not grasping the gap in Scaled’s hazard analysis.
Of significance going forward is the fact that the new “SpaceShipTwo” is built by the Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing unit.
In a statement, Virgin Galactic said the first “SpaceShipTwo” flew 54 times prior to the October 2014 crash, and that this provided an “enormous volume” of data useful in making safety improvements to the new craft.
Virgin Companies chairman Richard Branson has long been committed to Space and Sea expeditions to enhance the quality of life on Earth.