Published: Mon, December 17, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

VSS Unity reaches edge of space in landmark test flight

VSS Unity reaches edge of space in landmark test flight

Virgin Galactic has reached the edge of space for the first time, in a milestone accomplishment for Richard Branson's space tourism endeavors.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, added, "What we witnessed today is more compelling evidence that commercial space is set to become one of the twenty-first century's defining industries".

"Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space". "Today we get to enjoy the fact we have put people into space before anybody else", Mr Branson said.

For its fourth test flight on Thursday, the SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km - which the company considers to be the boundary of space, based on recent research, even though the long-held belief is that the boundary isn't reached until 100km.

The flight took place over California's Mojave Desert, and is deemed to be a success. The plane reentered the atmosphere at 2.5 times the speed of sound and landed a few minutes later to cheers and applause, concluding roughly an hour's journey.

VIRGIN GALACTIC have taken a major step towards realising Richard Branson's "dream" to bring space travel to the masses.

VSS Unity was released from carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, which ignited its rocket engine and released the plane at an altitude of around eight miles.

Unlike other rockets launched by NASA, Virgin's spacecraft does not make a vertical launch from a pad on the ground.

The successful launch comes after the original SpaceShip Two crashed during a test flight in 2014, killing the co-pilot and gravely injuring the pilot.

"I think that Theresa May just needs to be 100 percent honest with the public", Branson told the BBC. We've had tears, real tears, and moments of joy. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000. Well, the definition of space is somewhat hazy, but Virgin's pilots are astronauts by at least one definition.

New versions of SpaceShipTwo are built by a Virgin Galactic sister company and flight testing is now in-house.

Branson pointed out that Virgin Holidays in particular would suffer because the pound taking a hit would result in less people being able to afford to go overseas due to a poor currency exchange. It has also earned the plane's pilots, Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow, commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Other firms planning a variety of passenger spacecraft include Boeing Co, Elon Musk's SpaceX and late Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen's Stratolaunch. The rocket ship used for the flight can equip six people on board, and is roughly the size of an executive jet.

Once the test program is finished next year, he said, the operation will move to Spaceport America, the futuristic facility in New Mexico where it intends to fly its tourist flights.

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