Virgin Galactic space plane carries out test flight
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Two pilots were onboard the VSS Unity which blasted off from Spaceport America, New Mexico, for the first time. The flight saw a carrier plane named VMS Eve take the VSS Unity into the skies before it released the VS Unity.
Following its departure from VMS Eve, the VSS Unity reached an altitude of 55 miles – the edge of space – and travelling three times the speed of sound.
VSS Unity, piloted by CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay, then cruised along the border between Earth and space before landing back down at Spaceport America.
While it is the third time Virgin Galactic has taken the ship to the edge of space, it is the first time from its Spaceport America base, setting the company in good sted to offer the journey to tourists in 2022.
Virgin Galactic boss Sir Richard Branson said: “Fifteen years ago, New Mexico embarked on a journey to create the world’s first commercial spaceport.
“Today, we launched the first human spaceflight from that very same place, marking an important milestone for both Virgin Galactic and New Mexico.
“I am proud of the team for their hard work and grateful to the people of New Mexico who have been unwavering in their commitment for commercial spaceflight from day one.
“Their belief and support have made today’s historic achievement possible.”
Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, added: “Today’s flight showcased the inherent elegance and safety of our spaceflight system while marking a major step forward for both Virgin Galactic and human spaceflight in New Mexico.
“Space travel is a bold and adventurous endeavour, and I am incredibly proud of our talented team for making the dream of private space travel a reality.
“We will immediately begin processing the data gained from this successful test flight, and we look forward to sharing news on our next planned milestone.”
Virgin Galactic hopes to take paying customers to the edge of space, where they will be able to experience zero gravity as well as a stunning view of Earth.
Up to six passengers will be able to take a ride on the plane, according to Virgin Galactic.
However, tickets are not cheap and come at a hefty price. Seats are initially being sold for $250,000 (£196,000) apiece, and customers are able to place a fully refundable deposit of $1,000 (£730) on the company’s website.
Sir Richard has said 600 paying customers have already signed up to the venture, including the rich and famous.
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