Virgin Galactic Lights Rocket Engine
The suborbital space tourism company Virgin Galactic created by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson is set to make a big leap in 20120. Virgin Galactic plans to fly paying passengers on suborbital joy rides to the edge of space and back, initially at $200,000 a pop.
So far, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo spacecraft have only made unpowered glide tests. But experts anticipate seeing the SpaceShipTwo vehicle perform its first powered flight test in 2012.
NEXT: Dragons & Swans Visit Space Station
Dragons & Swans Visit Space Station
In 2012, the first private vehicle is set to make its maiden voyage to the to the International Space Station. The Dragon space capsule developed by Hawthorne, Calif., company Space Exploration Technology (SpaceX) is scheduled to launch atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket Feb. 7.
When it comes within range, the astronauts aboard the station will grab hold of it with the station's robotic arm and berth it to the outpost.
Another private spacecraft, the Cygnus capsule being developed by Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Va., is also set to make its debut in 2012. Cygnus is due to fly atop Orbital's Taurus 2 rocket in May.