Published: Mon, December 17, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Virgin Galactic reaches space for first time

Virgin Galactic reaches space for first time

During a test flight Thursday morning in Mojave, Calif., a pair of pilots flying the company's SpaceShipTwo spacecraft hit an altitude of 51.4 miles. That's 1.4 miles beyond the point the US Air Force considers the edge of our planet, which sits at 50 miles.

Virgin Galactic is owned by Sir Richard Branson, who is competing with Tesla's Elon Musk and Amazon's Jeff Bezos to send the first commercial passengers into space.

"The two pilots on board during the flight, Mark '"Forger"' Stucky and Frederick "'CJ"' Sturckow, landed safely back on the ground about an hour after entering the cockpit. It reached a top speed of 2.9 times the speed of sound.

SpaceShipTwo landing at Mojave Air and Space Port, Mojave, CA, Dec. 13, 2018. NASA said the four technology experiments will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.

FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell welcomed the news. The company's most recent successful space flight is a good indication that space tourism is now just around the corner. The Federal Aviation Administration said both pilots will receive their commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. early 2019. It is interesting to know that efforts on similar lines were first made by the group in year 2004, and first such commercial flight was speculated to take off in 2007.

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 flight was bold and risky, and after a fatal crash four years ago, reminiscent in its daring of a bygone era of human spaceflight.

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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).

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, added, "What we witnessed today is more compelling evidence that commercial space is set to become one of the twenty-first century's defining industries". This procedure, which is a first of its kind, ultimately saves fuel and money, according to Virgin Galactic launch officials.

As to whether it made a "space" flight is debatable. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) is the global body that determines aviation and space records. That is the criterion that was used for the Ansari X-Prize. A number of X-15 pilots were awarded astronaut wings for their flights in the 1960s for crossing that threshold. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000. Automated systems instantly separated the crew capsule from the disintegrating rocket and boosted it to an altitude where it could descend under parachute nearly as though it was returning from orbit.

Almost 700 people have paid or put down deposits to fly aboard Virgin's suborbital missions, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber. After Branson takes flight, the company will start sending up astronauts.

Unity reached a height of 82.7 km, before reentering into the Earth's atmosphere at supersonic speeds. NASA relies on Russian Federation to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

The first crew tests of SpaceX and Boeing's astronaut capsules are expected next year. When you are in the test flight programme of the company you can never be completely 100 per cent sure - because that's what a test flight programme is - to test it to its limits. "We extend our congratulations and thanks to each and every one of them".

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