Private space company Virgin Galactic revealed its spaceship cabin design on Tuesday afternoon during a virtual event that was designed to lure more paying customers to want to fly with the company founded by billionaire Richard Branson.
The cabin interior of SpaceShipTwo is the latest milestone toward its operational readiness to fly commercial astronauts.
Virgin Galactic was founded by Branson with the goal of flying paying customers to the edge of space in the sleek spaceship. Interested parties can put a down a payment to reserve their seat.
In June, the publicly-traded aerospace company and NASA’s Johnson Space Center entered a Space Act agreement that will allow Virgin Galactic to manage the development of the private astronaut program with the end goal being private flights to the International Space Station.
Under the program, Virgin Galactic will identify candidates interested in purchasing private astronaut missions to the ISS, obtain transportation to the station and provide on-orbit and ground resources.
The cabin design reveal was a more muted and calming affair than when the company revealed its spacesuit design prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, Virgin Galactic partnered with Under Armour and showed the suits off on a “zero gravity” catwalk, at an indoor skydiving venue.
On Tuesday, Virgin Galactic provided a virtual walk through of the cabin and showed unseen footage of Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, who explored the cabin herself during her first spaceflight on SpaceShipTwo.
Moses described her experience seeing Earth from space and the feeling of weightlessness. She said her experience was used to finalize the cabin design.
“I’ve rolled that all into training and into the cabin design, so that it is perfectly tuned, elegant, easy, safe, wonderful,” Moses said. “It was already freakin’ remarkable and now it’s even more so for all of our future customers.”
Providing safety without distraction, quietly absorbing periods of sensory intensity, and offering each astronaut a level of intimacy required for personal discovery and transformation. Take a look at the interior design of our spaceship cabin. https://t.co/mHy1c3JWUB pic.twitter.com/CQfDjTCZg3— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 28, 2020
Virgin Galactic Chief Space Officer George Whitesides said the company used input from a wide variety of experts including doctors, astronaut trainers pilots, engineers and future astronaut customers. London-based design agency, Seymourpowell, led the cabin design project with Virgin Galactic.
“The interior of the spaceship was designed with one thing in mind, the view of the Earth from space,” Whitesides said.
Design Director Jeremy Brown described the interior and the thorough process behind each design element while the song Clair de Lune played over the virtual tour of the cabin.
The spaceship has 17 windows passengers can gaze out from. Sixteen on board cameras will capture passenger reactions and the experience and a large circular mirror at the back of the cabin will allow them to see themselves as they experience weightlessness.
Each seat is customized for the paying astronauts. Similar to an airline flight, passengers will have seat back screens but these will display live flight data, including speed, boost time and G-forces.
“Your seat is also dynamic and enhances comfort during each stage of your flight,” Brown said. “When you leave your seat in space it reclines to maximize cabin space for you to enjoy weightlessness and it remains reclined during reentry so we direct and optimized G-forces without detracting from the thrill of the ride.”
Brown said to create a “harmonious connection” to the blue spacesuits designed by Under Armour, the cabin seats include blue and teal hues.
SpaceShipTwo’s cabin also features customization and the seats can be removed to make space for scientific experiments and payloads.
Mood lighting is also key, explained Brown, who said Virgin Galactic spoke to astronauts about their experiences seeing the vastness of space and bright Earth below. Each part of the spaceflight from boarding to landing will be accompanied by special lighting in the cabin.
“We’ve also programmed it for different phases, whether it’s using a calming color as we cruise up to release altitude, or we can add more vibrancy through the energetic rocket boost phase, or we turn it off completely once you’re in space, and it’s during this phase, we let Earth itself provide the ultimate beautiful lighting,” Brown said.
The announcement ended in a final sales pitch from Whitesides, asking anyone interested in flying with Virgin Galactic to download the company’s app and to join its “space faring” community online.
Re-watch the whole reveal below: