Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Reaches Space for 1st Time in Historic Test Flight!

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Reaches Space for 1st Time in Historic Test Flight!

Virgin Galactic's tourism spaceship climbed more than 50 miles high above California's Mojave Desert on Thursday, reaching for the first time what the company considers the boundary of space. If successful, it could help usher in a new era of space tourism, and maybe a different perspective of life.

That means VSS Unity could reach space as soon as Thursday, but Virgin admits that it could take much longer to reach that milestone.

Virgin Galactic's development of its commercial spaceline has taken longer than expected.

"It's a day that we've been waiting for for a long time", CEO George Whitesides told reporters Wednesday at the Virgin Galactic facilities at Mojave Air and Space Port.

Carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo released SpaceShipTwo shortly after reaching an altitude of 43,000 feet.

Virgin Galactic has not yet said when it plans on beginning its first passenger flights.

The aircraft reached an altitude of 271,268ft as it made its rapid ascent into space. SpaceShipTwo returned to the earth's atmosphere and successfully landed just before 8:15 a.m.

The rocket-powered plane, VSS Unity, was flown by two veteran pilots to a maximum altitude of 51.4 miles, surpassing the 50-mile mark that the U.S. government recognizes as the edge of space.

The two test pilots- Mark "Forger" Stucky and former NASA astronaut Rick "CJ" Sturckow - will be awarded commercial astronaut wings, said Federal Aviation Administration official Bailey Edwards.

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The Spaceship has been designed in an attempt to develop a vehicle that can take thrill-seekers, researchers and commercial customers on short hops into space.

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

He didn't elaborate on those other scenarios, but the company has already seen a worst-case one: the October 2014 accident during the flight of the first SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise, that destroyed the vehicle, killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injured pilot Pete Siebold.

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

More than 600 people have committed up to $250,000 for rides that include several minutes of weightlessness and a view of the Earth far below.

The plane carried two pilots and a mannequin named Annie as a stand-in passenger. It then detaches from the plane, ignites its rocket engine and climbs. The twin tails temporarily rotate upward to increase drag, then return to a normal flying configuration before the craft glides to a landing on a runway.

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

That day can not come soon enough for Mercury 13 candidate Wally Funk, who booked her flight on Branson's dream machine back in 2012 and at 79 might finally get a chance to go to space.

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