We have all come across theories, concepts proposed missions of orbit tour as a part of space tourism. One such company is Virgin Galactic. I have had read that the SpaceShip2 will have merely 6 mins to spend in Space i.e It will go up to 100km for few minutes and then plunge back into the atmosphere.

I first want to ask if this is what customers are paying for; six minutes in space?

Could this spacecraft ascend to a higher altitude and spend longer in space? Could it possible dock with the ISS?

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    $\begingroup$ No. The ISS is in orbit and SpaceShip2 is a suborbital vehicle. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ You write "it will go up for a few minutes and then come down" and ask "is that true?". What research have you done? What are your sources and why do you think you cannot trust them? $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ I've edited the your question to better match the way Space Exploration SE questions are written. It's better to avoid personal or stylistic language and just stick to a bare-bones approach; mention the information you have and where you've obtained it, then ask a question to which a fact-based answer can be written. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 3, 2020 at 1:16

1 Answer 1


The answer is actually very simple, and is based on a misconception you seem to be having:

Can Virgin Galactic's Orbital ship reach ISS

SpaceShip2 is not an orbital vehicle. The ISS is in orbit, SS2 cannot go to orbit, therefore, SS2 cannot go to the ISS.

In fact, you answer the question yourself:

I have had read that the SpaceShip2 will have merely 6 mins to spend in Space i.e It will go upto 100km for few minutes and then plunge back into the atmosphere!

The ISS is in orbit at 320km – 430km, so SS2 is about 200% to 300% short.

But more importantly, the ISS is in orbit, which means it is going sideways at 27000km/h, whereas SS2 is going sideways at … 0km/h. It is just going up and then falling down.

Obligatory Randall Munroe shoutout: https://what-if.xkcd.com/58/

Space is not about going high. Space is about going sideways really fast, so that you are constantly falling towards Earth but you are moving so fast sideways that you are always "missing". It is not like as soon as you get to the ISS, gravity just turns off. Gravity on the ISS is roughly 90% the gravity at sea level.

If you are in the central US, the ISS is closer than the ocean. Since you can get to the ocean in your car, distance is clearly not the problem.

There is another misconception in your question:

It will go upto 100km for few minutes

That sounds like SS2 is going to up to 100km, then cruise around at that altitude for a bit, and then go back down. That is not how it works.

SS2 will mostly be on a ballistic trajectory. It's really not much different from throwing a ball up in the air. The ball will rise but lose velocity, then it will reach its highest point, stand still for an infinitely short moment, and then accelerate back down.

The same is going to happen with SS2. It will go straight up (unlike the ball, it will have a rocket motor that accelerates it, whereas the ball's acceleration stops as soon as it leaves your hand, but as soon as the rocket burns out, there's no difference anymore between the SpaceShip2 and the ball), and then fall back down again.

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    $\begingroup$ Another little detail: SS2 actually only reaches around 80 km. But the difference between a vertical hop to 80 km and one to 100 km is pretty negligible compared to the difference between either of those and actual orbit. $\endgroup$ Aug 3, 2020 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ I made some stylistic edits to the question but I don't think it has any impact on your answer. I think the first part of the question is really "Are customers paying so much money for only six minutes in space?" to which the answer is that they are paying for some weeks of fun training, the opportunity to post selfies in Instagram that will shame their friends' Instagram pages, and bragging rights for the rest of their lives, but that's just my view :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 3, 2020 at 1:16

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