Virgin Galactic reaches space and is one step closer to space tourism

Virgin Galactic reaches space and is one step closer to space tourism

Virgin Galactic reaches space and is one step closer to space tourism

It landed on a runway minutes later. "I've personally invested about a billion dollars in this project, so having our first money coming back is a good feeling.We've got to make this a profitable venture and I think we can make it a profitable venture".

Virgin's carrier airplane holding the VSS Unity spaceliner took off early Thursday from the Mojave Air and Space Port, about 145 kilometers north of Los Angeles, California.

"SpaceShipTwo, welcome to space", Virgin Galactic representatives said via Twitter during today's flight.

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

The company aims to take paying customers on the six-passenger rocket, which is about the size of an executive jet. "Then I plan to go up into space", he said, noting he looks forward to that next year and is "very, very excited".

Branson told reporters Thursday that "by being successful today, we hope to bring in one or two other investors". Tickets will be offered ahead of the first commercial launch, and test flights with Blue Origin employees are expected to begin in 2019. Virgin's pilots are aiming to soar 50 miles into the sky - the U.S. military and NASA's definition of the edge of space and high enough to earn commercial astronaut wings by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. That differs from a long-held view that the boundary is reached at 100 kilometers. That said, the lower altitude of VSS Unity also provides an opportunity for research, serving the dual-purpose of science and recreation.

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity is released from the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft during a gliding test for SpaceShipTwo near Mojave, Calif., on Jan.11, 2018.

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The spacecraft with two test pilots, Mark (Forger) Stucky and Rick (CJ) Sturckow, at the controls quickly hurtled upward and out of sight from viewers on the ground. It burned for a total of 60 seconds and drove the vehicle directly upward at almost three times the speed of sound.

"It was a great flight and I can't wait to do it again", said Mr Sturckow, who flew on the space shuttle four times.

In 2008, Virgin Galactic first promised sub-orbital spaceflight trips for tourists would be taking place "within 18 months".

More than 600 people have committed up to $250,000 United States for rides in the six-passenger rocket, which is about the size of an executive jet.

Funded by the late billionaire Paul G. Allen and created by maverick aerospace designer Burt Rutan, SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

The triumph was something of a vindication for Branson and SpaceShipTwo. 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.

The flight is a bold and risky one, and follows a fatal crash in 2014, when a previous version of the spacecraft came apart midflight, killing one of the pilots.

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