Virgin Galactic hasn’t yet started taking tourists into space on its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, but the company now offers a virtual SpaceShipTwo tour on its website, with a big assist from Microsoft Edge Web Showcase.
The upgraded website is a lot clickier — and continues to provide basic information about Virgin Galactic as well as videos, stills and online updates. But the centerpiece is a 3-D, VR-enhanced digital model of VSS Unity, the SpaceShipTwo plane that’s undergoing tests at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.
Start your tour by tapping on the website’s “Explore” button.
If you’re plugged into a virtual-reality or mixed-reality headset, or looking through a smartphone viewer, you can use gaze controls to navigate your way through a 360-degree environment.
Focusing on hotspots will bring up videos and graphics about SpaceShipTwo, its WhiteKnightTwo mothership and the Virgin Galactic team.
There’s a parallel 3-D tour that’ll give you a similar experience even without the headset.
Microsoft Edge’s Divya Kumar and Virgin Galactic’s Tom Westray tell the story behind the extreme website makeover today in a posting on Microsoft’s Windows Experience Blog.
“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,” they write.
In a video about the project, Virgin Galactic Vice President Julia Tizard says she sees parallels between what her company is doing and what Microsoft Edge is aiming for.
“The spirit of what Microsoft Edge is bringing to the Virgin Galactic website is a very kindred spirit,” she says. “It’s the same creativity, the same innovation, the same storytelling mode that we have.”
Virgin Galactic’s story has had its low points and its high points, but now it’s about to enter a crucial chapter: the rocket-powered phase of VSS Unity’s flight tests, shooting for the edge of space.
The company says its schedule for commercial operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico will depend on how the test program proceeds, but hundreds of customers already have paid as much as $250,000 to reserve their ride.
For those would-be spacefliers, and for everyone else tracking Virgin Galactic’s progress, the remade website could well become a star on the list of favorites.