Tourism rocket ship reaches space on test flight

Tourism rocket ship reaches space on test flight

CEO George Whitesides said Wednesday they will try to exceed an altitude of 50 miles (80.4 kilometers), which Virgin Galactic considers the boundary of space.

The carrier airplane hauled the SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket plane to an altitude of about 45,000 feet (13.7 kms) and released it. Seconds later, SpaceShipTwo fired, catapulting it to more than 51 miles (82 km) above Earth, high enough for the pilots, Mark Stucky and Frederick Sturckow, to experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet.

The test flight took off from the Mojave Air & Space Port in California at 7:11 am PT.

The two pilots aboard VSS Unity on Thursday will be awarded commercial astronaut wings from the The Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial space travel. It landed minutes later.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo took its first trip into space today as the company launched the reusable rocket-powered craft on its fourth test flight above the Mojave desert in southern California. In addition to the pilots, the spaceship carried four NASA research payloads and a mannequin named Annie.

The successful flight is significant progress toward the start of commercial flights that Virgin Galactic promised more than a decade ago.

Branson predicted that the company would make it to space before Christmas, and that prediction held true. Branson himself has already stated that he will be the first to ride as a passenger after the craft is fully tested.

These flights aren't the same as an orbital flight to space - which involves actually sending people around the Earth before coming back home.

Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Two takes off for a suborbital test flight from Mojave California
Camera Icon Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Two takes off for a suborbital test flight from Mojave

The Thursday flight could pave the way for the company to begin flying their commercial customers to suborbital space sometime in the relatively near future, a huge boon for the company that has faced its fair share of setbacks on the road to spaceflight.

Branson has said he wants to be one of the first on board.

Virgin Galactic hasn't said when it plans to begin commercial flights.

Virgin's latest flight test comes four years after the original SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight that killed the co-pilot and seriously injured the pilot, dealing a major setback to Virgin Galactic, a US offshoot of the London-based Virgin Group.

Virgin Galactic has more tests of VSS Unity planned before moving to Spaceport America in New Mexico where it will set up its tourism operation.

This May 29, 2018 photo provided by Virgin Galactic shows the VSS Unity craft during a supersonic flight test. Blue Origin will use the more traditional method of spacecraft attached to a rocket launched from the ground.

The company says roughly 600 people have reserved tickets costing between $200,000 and $250,000.

"The real limitation we're shooting for is an altitude", said Mike Moses, president of Virgin Galactic, ahead of the launch, as reported by SpaceNews.

Branson's Virgin Galactic reaches space for the first time
If you have a trip to space on your mind, even on a very whimsical level, know that Richard Branson shares your vision. New versions of SpaceShipTwo are built by a Virgin Galactic sister company and flight testing is now in-house.

Related Articles