Virgin Galactic headed into space for the first time

15 December, 2018, 16:34 | Author: Frank Williams
  • Virgin Galactic could soon reach space for the first time

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has successfully made it to space for the first time with VSS Unity, their SpaceShipTwo-class rocket-powered plane, during the craft's 4th test flight. While SpaceX has had some high-profile launches of its own lately, Virgin Galactic says Thursday's flight marks "the very first time that a crewed vehicle built for commercial, passenger service, has reached space".

The company planned to burn the rockets for about 50 seconds, not to their full capacity but enough to send the spacecraft and its two pilots to the edge of space.

The rocket ship hit an altitude of 82km before beginning its gliding descent, said mission official Enrico Palermo.

The company plans to eventually take paying passengers on short trips to space.

Branson, wearing a leather bomber jacket with a fur collar, attended the take-off along with hundreds of spectators on a crisp morning in the California desert.

The VSS Unity suborbital spaceliner reached an altitude of approximately 51 miles above California's Mojave Desert this mornong. The space plane had a top speed of nearly three times the speed of sound and had a Mach 2.5 supersonic re-entry into the planet's atmosphere.

Branson's space venture suffered a major setback in 2014 when its first space plane, VSS Enterprise, broke apart during a test flight, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and injuring pilot Peter Siebold.

"Today, we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space to change the world for good", Branson said in a statement.

SpaceShipTwo was hauled to an altitude of about 45,000 feet by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane and then detached.

One of the many posts on Twitter by Virgin Galactic showcasing the success and significance of the launch
One of the many posts on Twitter by Virgin Galactic showcasing the success and significance of the launch

Virgin Galactic considers 80km the boundary of space because it is used by the U.S. airforce and other USA agencies.

Sturckow, a former space shuttle pilot, will become the only person to be awarded astronaut wings from both NASA and the FAA.

In the meantime, a commercial space race is underway as companies rush to build spacecraft that can carry astronauts and tourists into microgravity.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo takes off for a suborbital test flight on December 13, 2018, in Mojave, Calif.

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

But many people expect it to happen within a year, and Sir Richard has said he will be on the first trip, leaving the company's New Mexico spaceport. He said that the total investment was about $1.3 to 1.5 billion, a total Whitesides said later included not just Virgin Galactic but also spacecraft manufacturer The Spaceship Company and small launch vehicle firm Virgin Orbit.

More than 600 people have all bought tickets to be on the first round of commercial space flights in six-passenger rockets by Virgin for up to $250,000 (£200,000) a ticket.

Stucky, beaming from an outdoor stage near the runway after returning from the test flight, said he'd been waiting for the moment "for decades".

More news: Trump Says He Didn't Have to Disclose Payments. Legal Experts Disagree

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