British Pakistani ready for 'commercial' space flight
14 July, 2012
LONDON: A British Pakistani is ready for space flight as Virgin Galactic powers into final leg of test flights.
Namira Salim, the first Pakistani astronaut, attended the Farnborough International Air Show 2012 in the UK with Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic - the world's first commercial space-line of the world.
The news came following a flurry of recent test activity and confirmation that all major components of Spaceship Two's rocket system have been qualified for powered test flights before the end of the year. Being at the last stage in the development of private space flight, Namira is expected to break the orbit next year, making her the first South Asian and the first Pakistani space tourist.
"Virgin Galactic's goal is to revolutionise the way we get to space," Branson said. "This is a breakthrough which will make way for cargo, satellites, payloads, scientists and researchers into space."
Talking to visitors, Namira said, "NASA has signed several contracts with Virgin Galactic to utilise its technology which is not only more cost effective, but also of minimal environmental impact as compared to conventional ground up rocket launches," she explained.
On this occasion, Branson announced 'LauncherOne', a new air-launched rocket specifically designed to deliver small satellites into low earth orbit. LauncherOne will be a two-stage vehicle capable of carrying up to 225 kilogrammes by 2016, for prices below $10 million. The rocket will be launched from Virgin Galactic's proven mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, bringing satellite launch into the realm of affordability for start-ups, schools to established companies and national space agencies, alike.
LauncherOne will be a critical new tool for the global research community. "I am very excited to see how satellites can help us better understand the threat of climate change facing our planet," Namira said.
Virgin Galactic, the first private commercial space-line of the world, is not about the rich and famous going to space. "It is about making space for every man, woman and child who has ever dreamt of reaching for the stars. We as 84 founder astronauts of Virgin Galactic have invested $200,000 each to make this a reality for all," Namira said. "With time, the price will come down significantly. For instance, the first trans-Atlantic flight cost around $50,000. Today one can take the same flight across for as little as a few hundred dollars!"
"The development of the private space industry has been a fun ride full of milestone events with Sir Richard Branson who saw our MotherShipEve and SpaceShipTwo evolve before our own eyes. These are the most beautiful vessels that will carry us to space," Namira explained.