Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Virgin Galactic aims to reach space with tourism rocket

Virgin Galactic aims to reach space with tourism rocket

"If we have a very good day, we could potentially have the first space flight into space of Virgin Galactic, so that would be a big milestone from our personal company and then on a national level, I think this would be the first human spaceflight from American soil into space since the retirement of the USA space shuttle", stated George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic.

Built by The Spaceship Co., Virgin's SpaceShipTwo rocketplane, also known as VSS Unity, was carried aloft from the Mojave Air and Space Port by a twin-fuselage carrier jet known as WhiteKnightTwo and released at an altitude of about 43,000 feet.

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. "That's 2.9 times the speed of sound".

"Safety's all that matters if you're putting people into space", he said.

Numerous crowd embraced and cried as the rocket plane made its landing on Thursday morning.

Virgin Galactic marked a major milestone today in that race, as its spaceship made it to a peak height, or apogee, of 82.7km, after taking off attached to an airplane from Mojave, California, then firing its rocket motors to reach new heights.

The endeavour began in 2004 when Branson announced the founding of Virgin Galactic in the heady days after the flights of SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed manned spacecraft that made three flights into space.

Virgin Galactic has not said when it plans to begin commercial flights.

More than 600 people have committed up to $250,000 U.S. for rides in the six-passenger rocket, which is about the size of an executive jet. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000.

"It's a day that we've been waiting for for a long time", CEO George Whitesides told reporters Wednesday at the Virgin Galactic facilities at Mojave Air and Space Port. They too are hoping to take their first commercial passengers in 2019.

The billionaire said he aimed for a commercial space flight with passengers, including himself, as early as March next year.

At a basic level, this flight will aim to fly higher and faster.

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity is released from the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft during a gliding test for SpaceShipTwo near Mojave, Calif., on Jan.11, 2018.

Tourists will spend several minutes floating in zero gravity, aboard a spaceship that approaches or passes through the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere and space, some 62 miles (100 kilometers) high.

It's not clear how high the craft will go during the session. The company has identified 50 miles as the altitude for reaching space, as NASA and the U.S. Air Force award astronaut wings to those who exceed that altitude. In addition to the two pilots, SpaceShipTwo was also carrying a dummy to simulate a passenger and four unspecified research payloads that are part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.

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