Featured image credit: Virgin Galactic
As part of a livestream on YouTube this morning, Virgin Galactic has revealed the passenger cabin of SpaceShipTwo, their space tourism craft intended to take paying customers to space in the near future. Yes, it’s as futuristic as you can imagine.
“One of the defining hallmarks of the Virgin brand over 50 years, has been the use of inspired and bold design to transform the customer experience,” the company said in a statement. “It’s an ethos that has been successfully applied across industrial sectors and design disciplines: from aircraft cabins and hotel bedrooms to fitness classes and personal banking.”
If Virgin Galactic’s exterior spaceplane design seems familiar, that’s because it is: the function and form of spacecraft is critical to mission success, and we’re bound by currently known physics when it comes to designing and launching objects from earth. (Though fellow contributor Ethan Siegel recently shared fascinating ideas on our ability to achieve interstellar travel with the constraints of current physics.)
Inside the cabin of SpaceShipTwo is another story: Virgin Galactic has designed the interior from top to bottom to maximize each astronaut’s experience.
“The spaceship cabin interior is in many ways the design centrepiece [sic] of the astronaut journey and what has been created will both facilitate and elevate a uniquely profound and transformational journey for the thousands who will fly,” said Michael Colglazier, newly-named CEO of Virgin Galactic.
The cabin is specifically designed for movement in weightlessness, including a unique configuration of the passenger seats to increase “float zone volume,” as the company describes it. Various reclining functions make pulling 3+ Gs on the ascent more comfortable, and provide a safe, secure ride.
Speaking of the seats, each is individually-sized for the astronaut on that flight, and designed with materials that both look futuristic and functional. There’s also a seat-back screen for each passenger, which taps into live flight data and information about each stage of the experience. While these are small compared to those on your average airplane flight, they provide a lot of information to help make the flight a seamless experience.
There are other design elements, all created in collaboration with London design firm Seymourpowell, that serve as extra icing on the cake: 12 cabin windows ensure you’ll never miss a view of earth from space. Mood lighting harmonizes with each phase of the flight – from bright during the booster phase to black at apogee, so as not to interfere with the view of the blackness of space.
Perhaps most interesting in our Instagram-obsessed is how Virgin Galactic has designed the cabin for selfies and social media sharing. Rather than encouraging customers to bring up devices that will float around and ruin the whole aesthetic, there are 16 cameras placed around the cabin to capture video and photos from every angle – including one placed in the each cabin window frame for the perfect space plane photo. There’s also a giant mirror in the back of the cabin that reflects all those space somersaults and ensure your hair isn’t standing on end for the photos.
“When we created Virgin Galactic, we started with what we believed would be an optimal customer experience and then built the spaceship around it,” said Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group. “This cabin has been designed specifically to allow thousands of people like you and me to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely – and that is incredibly exciting.”
For those of us stuck at home here on earth, there’s a bonus beyond the awe inspiring views on the livestream replay. Virgin Galactic has also released an Augmented Reality mobile app that allows users to explore the cabin design and spaceflight experience. It’s now available for free in the App Store and Play Store.
“The fascination with spaceflight is universal and Virgin Galactic is here to satisfy it,” Colglazier concluded. “We are particularly proud to be able to share this latest milestone with millions around the world, particularly during these unusual times. We hope the new app, with cutting-edge AR technology will help bring the dream of space one step closer for space enthusiasts everywhere.”