Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo tourism rocket reaches space for the first time

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo tourism rocket reaches space for the first time

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo tourism rocket reaches space for the first time

Virgin Galactic hopes to reach space for the first time today (weather permitting).

During a test flight Thursday morning in Mojave, Calif., a pair of pilots flying the company's SpaceShipTwo spacecraft hit an altitude of 51.4 miles.

The successful test has brought the oft-delayed dream of Richard Branson welcoming the first paying passengers onboard for an expensive sub-orbital jaunt that bit closer.

Becoming a passenger on one of VSS Unity's future flights doesn't come cheap, the price tag being $250,000 per 90-minute flight. This accomplishment makes Virgin the first US-based venture to carry humans to the edge of space since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, edging out others with similar goals such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. Between bad weather, mechanical troubles and adjustments, and ensuring that its safety pilots are not put in unnecessary danger.

The brief, suborbital flight - with two pilots on board - was a key milestone for the company headed by British tycoon Richard Branson, who is striving to carry tourists to space at a cost of $US250,000 ($345,000) per seat.

The company considers the altitude to be the boundary of space, which contradicts a long-held view that it is reached at 62 miles (100km). He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Then, two pilots on the VSS Unity fire the engines toward the frontier of space, typically defined as an altitude of 100 km.

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.

SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Unity, hitched a ride on Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft before separating and taking off under its own power. It burned for a total of 60 seconds and drove the vehicle directly upward at almost three times the speed of sound.

A Virgin Galactic rocket plane blasted to the edge of space today and returned safely to the California desert, capping off years of hard testing to become the first USA commercial human flight to reach space since America's shuttle programme ended in 2011.

A University of Florida experiment studying plant growth response to microgravity environments was also among the four investigations selected by NASA's Flight Opportunities program.

On the ground, a gaggle of press, space enthusiasts, including Branson and his guests watched the flight, tilting their heads skyward. "Space is not cheap", he said. This is not necessary for the VSS Unity though, since its velocity zeros out just past the edge of the Karman Line.

One of the two pilots handed Mr Branson a small Earth stress ball when the pair hugged after the spaceship landed safely after around an hour's journey. We plan to burn the rocket motor for longer than we ever have in flight before, but not to its full duration.

More than 600 people from 50 countries have reserved places to fly with Virgin Galactic when all testing has been completed. Whitesides noted that recent research favours the lower altitude.

Related news

[an error occurred while processing the directive]