Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Shows Off Its ‘Fleet’ Of Spaceships In Revamped, VR-Enabled Website

Virgin Galactic employees sitting in the cabin of a prototype SpaceShipTwo spacecraft.
Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

Virgin Galactic has partnered with Microsoft to exhibit its efforts toward ushering in a new age of space transportation in the world. The firm has rolled out its upgraded, virtual reality (VR)-enabled website that allows visitors to experience an absorbing tour of Virgin’s state-of-the-art spaceships, including the SpaceShipTwo plane and the WhiteKnightTwo “mothership.”

The touch-optimized, mobile-friendly website has been designed using Microsoft’s Edge to offer a highly immersive, multimedia-enhanced WebVR experience to “aspiring astronauts.” Visitors can start their virtual tour by clicking the “Explore” button on the homepage. Those plugged into a VR or mixed-reality headset can easily use gaze controls to steer their way through a virtual environment and interact with fluid animations. There are many hotspots on the website to provide visitors a VR experience of SpaceShipTwo and the WhiteKnightTwo “mothership.” A parallel tour in 3D is also available for users exploring the website without a headset.

The website, accessible to all, works well in Google Chrome—showing engaging, informative videos about Virgin’s spaceships, crew, and the firm. Users exploring the site on a smartphone are offered a similar experience through animations and videos.

“Partnering with Virgin Galactic offered the Microsoft Edge team a unique opportunity to use web technology as a digital gateway to tell the story of the future of human space exploration through unique, exclusive and memorable experiences,” Microsoft Edge’s Divya Kumar and Virgin Galactic’s Tom Westray revealed in a blog post on Windows.com.

According to Divya Kumar and Tom Westray, the new website aims to create a connection between global population and space travel as well as exhibit how the latest research in the field of space transportation can improve the lives of people on Earth.

Since its founding, Virgin Galactic has had many high and low points in its story. Richard Branson founded the company in 2004 and joined hands with Scaled Composites Company in the same year with an aim to fly tourists into space by 2007. However, Virgin Galactic has seen many delays in its space venture in the past 10 years. In a tragic accident in October 2014, the company’s VSS Enterprise spaceship broke apart during a test flight, killing one of the two pilots. This accident was a huge setback in Virgin’s bid to receive a license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to carry passengers on its spaceship on a commercial basis.

After so many delays in the past decade, Virgin Galactic finally entered an important chapter in its story last month when VSS Unity completed its seventh successful glide flight, according to The Telegraph. The plane was released from its “mothership” above the Mojave Desert in California and then went through a series of procedures that allowed scientists to simulate the conditions that will apply during actual space flight. All these developments sound very positive for Virgin Galactic, and this space travel company may now think of flying into space with some tourists in the near future.