Virgin Galactic has reached suborbital space for the first time

Virgin Galactic could soon reach space for the first time

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has successfully made it to space for the first time with VSS Unity, their SpaceShipTwo-class rocket-powered plane, during the craft's 4th test flight.

"Space is Virgin territory", Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic's founder, told the pilots after they landed the rocketship safely in California's Mojave Desert.

Branson, who plans to be on the first passenger trip aboard VSS Unity, has said he hoped Virgin Galactic's pilots would reach space before December 25.

The Mojave, Calif., launch was the fourth test flight of the SpaceShipTwo Unity, reports Space.com, which has photos. With two test pilots at the controls, the spacecraft quickly hurtled upward and out of sight from viewers on the ground. The plane returned to a normal flying configuration before gliding to land on the Mojave Air and Space Port runway.

Virgin Galactic, which is focused on space tourism, aims to use SpaceShipTwo to take paying customers for a short journey to and from space.

"Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space".

Mr Branson, was present at the take-off, along with hundreds of spectators in the California desert early this morning.

At 51.4 miles high, VSS Unity reached the technical definition of space, earning its pilots commercial astronaut wings by the US Federal Aviation Administration, although the usual worldwide standard is the 62-mile "Karman line". It reached a top speed of 2.9 times the speed of sound.

Virgin space tourist carrier
An artist’s impression of the Virgin SpaceShipTwo

The two pilots will attempt to launch the craft on a supersonic flight to the edge of space for the first time.

"Today we have shown Virgin Galactic can open space to the world", Branson said, adding he aimed for a commercial space flight with passengers - including himself - by March 2019.

SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Unity, hitched a ride on Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft before separating and taking off under its own power. It's high enough to reach the USA government's recognized definition of space, but not the 62-mile "Karman line" that is internationally recognized as the boundary.

Virgin Galactic officials said Thursday's spaceflight represents an incredible opportunity, not just for the company, but for the future in general.

Then, in 2014, SpaceShipTwo broke apart during a test flight by Scaled Composites when the co-pilot prematurely unlocked its unique "feathering" braking system and it began to deploy.

Sturckow, a former space shuttle pilot, will become the only person to be awarded astronaut wings from both NASA and the FAA. "Commercial space has great potential for American economic and innovative leadership", said FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell after the flight.

Branson envisions a fleet of Virgin's SpaceShipTwo craft like the VSS Unity operating so frequently that costs fall to the point where space travel is widely affordable.

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