Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Virgin Galactic successfully launches tourism rocket ship into space for first time

Virgin Galactic successfully launches tourism rocket ship into space for first time

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, flew higher than it ever has before on Thursday, surpassing what the US Air Force considers the boundary of space, and marking the first manned flight to space from US soil since 2011.

In the meantime, a commercial space race is underway as companies rush to build spacecraft that can carry astronauts and tourists into microgravity.

It added: "We also plan to burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach space for the first time".

Virgin Space Ship Unity was released from a carrier aircraft over California's Mojave Desert early Thursday and ignited its rocket engine.

"We made it to space", the company said on Twitter."We travelled at 2.9 Mach on the way up to today".

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.

Given the tragedy that struck in 2014 when the previous Virgin ship, the VSS Enterprise, crashed as a result of pilot error, the company warns that "there is no guarantee that everything will work perfectly first time".

In completing the mission, SpaceShipTwo flew higher than 50 miles, widely considered to be the boundary of space.

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Virgin Galactic can argue in favor of its claim to reaching space.

Virgin Galactic's supersonic space plane soared into the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere Thursday for a milestone flight.

After the rocket plane topped 50-mile altitude, reaching an apogee of 51.4 miles above earth, a crying Branson high-fived and hugged spectators. Competitors include Blue Origin - founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos - and Elon Musk's SpaceX whose unmanned Falcon 9 rocket has brought supply to the International Space Station for NASA.

"If we have a very good day, we could potentially have the first space flight into space of Virgin Galactic, so that would be a big milestone from our personal company and then on a national level, I think this would be the first human spaceflight from American soil into space since the retirement of the USA space shuttle", stated George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic. "There have been two people before that have flown winged spacecraft to space and back". Branson's goal: Open up space travel to more and more people.

More than 600 clients have already paid $250,000 for a ticket.

The company hasn't set a schedule for beginning commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo from New Mexico's Spaceport America, but is laying the groundwork for increased commercial operations.

"Commercial space has great potential for American economic and innovative leadership", Elwell said. 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.

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