Published: Wed, December 19, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Virgin Galactic flew an engagement ring to space

Virgin Galactic flew an engagement ring to space

After the rocket plane, also called the VSS Unity, reached an apogee of 83km above Earth, a crying Branson hugged his son and high-fived and hugged other spectators. While this measurement for the edge of space is still up for debate, many authorities are considering it to be the actual distance to the line between space and the Earth's atmosphere.

A crewed spaceship built to carry private passengers has reached space - and generated its first revenue - for the first time.

The achievement has been recognised by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who will present pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow with FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC in 2019.

On the ground, a gaggle of press, space enthusiasts, including Branson and his guests watched the flight, tilting their heads skyward.

Whitesides said a review of the data from the test flight will last into the new year. A fatal test flight in 2014 slowed the program further.

After Virgin Galactic's successful space test flight, company founder Richard Branson is looking forward to the future - and it may come sooner than you think.

The space tourism company's feat marks the first successful manned space flight launched on US soil since NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011.

It comes at a time when NASA is still forced to rely on Russian Federation to fly its astronauts to orbit and faces criticism that its aversion to risk has replaced the youthful audacity that helped it put men on the moon. The spacecraft reached a height of 51.4 miles, hitting a top speed of Mach 2.9, before descending and landing at the company's spaceport in Mojave. "When you are in the test flight program of a space company you can never be completely 100 percent sure".

Virgin Galactic is making big strides towards launching a space tourism agency but it might not be the first to do it. Competitors like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Beszos' Blue Origin are also trying to reach the same goal.

The United States, however, is the only country that defines space as a location 80 km above the Earth's surface.

Its first test flights with humans on board are scheduled for next year. Earlier this year, the supersonic plane climbed to about 32 miles during its third-ever rocket-powered flight.

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". CSF President Eric Stallmer said the "commercial space industry will create unprecedented opportunities for space tourism and democratize space for all".

Almost 700 people have paid or put down deposits to fly aboard Virgin's suborbital missions, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber.

It is known that Virgin Galactic, owned by Richard Branson, plans to fly passengers on a regular basis.

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