Branson celebrates as rocket plane reaches space and returns home safe

Branson celebrates as rocket plane reaches space and returns home safe

US spaceflight company Virgin Galactic's spaceplane SpaceShipTwo successfully flew to suborbital space during a test flight on Thursday from Mojave in the western USA state of California, reaching an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.7 km).

Perhaps Parrish and McGowan should consider an off-this-world honeymoon destination when Virgin Galactic finally moves ahead with ferrying passengers to suborbital space.

It was carrying two pilots and four NASA research payloads, as well as a mannequin named Annie, who was acting as a stand-in passenger.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said there will be more test flights and if all goes well, he will take a ride before the public gets its chance.

Virgin Galactic's first spaceflight took place December 13, 2018. It has also earned the plane's pilots, Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow, commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Today's accomplishment has also been recognized by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, which flew four space science and technology experiments on VSS Unity, making this Virgin Galactic's first revenue generating flight.

Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight firm founded by Sir Richard Branson to take tourists into space, has kept its promise to send one of its crews into space before Christmas. This was the company's fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program.

Virgin Galactic's spacecraft Unity was piloted by two veteran pilots: Mark "Forger" Stucky and Rick "CJ" Sturckow.

Branson celebrates as rocket plane reaches space and returns home safe

As VSS Unity coasted upwards through the black sky and into space, Virgin Galactic Mission Control confirmed the news and congratulated the two astronaut pilots: "Unity, Welcome to Space". With recent progress towards launching commercial flights, Mr Branson said he was ready to re-open bookings. During the launch, the spacecraft achieved speeds of just under mach 3.0 (3 times the speed of sound). The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation regulates, facilitates and promotes the commercial space launch industry and licensed today's flight.

The tragedy spurred critics of space tourism who have deemed such projects irresponsibly risky.

"Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally", said Branson after the successful space flight. Three technicians were killed in 2007 by an explosion while testing a propellant system at Scaled Composites LLC, which built SpaceShipOne and was building the first SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic.

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

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman operate cargo ships that launch from the United States, toting supplies and food to the space station, but not people.

More than 600 clients have already paid $250,000 for a ticket.

Whitesides said a review of the flight's data will last into the new year, and there will be more test flights, some with company employees as passengers.

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