- Fewer than 25 suborbital spaceflights have ever been conducted
- Most suborbital launches were conducted with vehicles retired decades ago
- No suborbital flight has ever carried a paying passenger
- There is no agreement on what even constitutes a suborbital spaceflight
by Douglas Messier
When Richard Branson and three Virgin Galactic employees strap into their seats aboard SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity on Sunday, they will briefly go where not very many have gone before: suborbital space.
Of the 374 attempts to launch astronauts to space since Yuri Gagarin flew into Earth orbit 60 years ago, only 23 were suborbital flights. The majority of those launches were conducted during the 1960’s using vehicles that long ago became museum pieces. One ended with the loss of the spacecraft and its pilot. And two flights were unintentional ones involving vehicles being launched into Earth orbit.(more…)