Published: Wed, December 19, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Commercial space tourism might be possible very soon

Commercial space tourism might be possible very soon

- 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.

The VSS Unity suborbital "SpaceShipTwo" spaceliner took to the skies with the help of its carrier plane, VMS Eve above the Mojave Desert on December 13th.

Once the mothership Eve reached an altitude of about 13,110 metres (43,000 feet), it released the space plane VSS Unity in the sky.

The rocket plane re-entered the atmosphere at 2.5 times the speed of sound and landed a few minutes later. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory and author of Jonathan's Space Report recently published a paper concluding that from a historical, physical and technological perspective, 80 kilometers is more appropriate than 100 km.

To date, this flight was the fourth rocket-powered test flight of the VSS Unity, which was first unveiled by Virgin Galactic in 2016.

Just earlier today, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo achieved true spaceflight for the first time in history, marking a significant day for Virgin Group, as well as a big step towards private "space tourism". It has also earned the plane's pilots, Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow, commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration.

On the ground, a gaggle of press, space enthusiasts, including Branson and his guests watched the flight, tilting their heads skyward. However, CJ and Forger can still be considered astronauts as far as the US Air Force and other US agencies are concerned.

The successful flight is significant progress toward the start of commercial flights that Virgin Galactic promised more than a decade ago.

Sir Richard Branson celebrates the Virgin Galactic test flight in California
Sir Richard Branson celebrates the Virgin Galactic test flight in California

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

Between Space X and the Virgin Galactic program, there seems to definitely be something of a space race on our hands. NASA relies on Russian Federation to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

As to whether it made a "space" flight is debatable.

We all sort of rolled our eyes a bit when Richard Branson announced he'd be making the move into space travel. Virgin plans to keep striving to become the first company to offer the public the opportunity to experience zero gravity firsthand, and the opportunity to soar among the stars.

Its first test flights with humans on board are scheduled for next year.

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.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson shared the sweet moment on social media, saying, "What better way to propose than with a ring that had just flown to space?"

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