Friday, 18 January, 2019

Virgin Galactic Will Attempt To Reach Space For The First Time

VMS Unity Virgin Galactic Will Attempt To Reach Space For The First Time
Theresa Hayes | 17 December, 2018, 14:43

Virgin Galactic's spaceship did not launch on a rocket but took off attached to an airplane from Mojave, California.

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 where Earth's upper atmosphere ends, and it's about 62 miles, or 100 km, high. A typical NASA "sounding rocket", a small rocket generally launched with equipment on board to take measurements and scientific experiments during an approximately 30-minute sub-orbital flight only, reaches anywhere from 30-80 miles above the Earth.

Branson spoke to CBSN from California's Mojave Desert after Virgin Galactic got one step closer to sending tourists to space.

After successfully reaching space and then landing back on Earth, SpaceShipTwo is now the first craft to launch humans into space from US soil since NASA's Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

This May 29, 2018 photo provided by Virgin Galactic shows the VSS Unity craft during a supersonic flight test.

Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

The test launch, which took place at 10 a.m. ET, launched more than 50 miles into the air, meeting the Federal Aviation Administration's definition of space.

"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.

The rocket motor burnt for 60 seconds and the aircraft travelled at 2.9 times the speed of sound in today's test flight.

That prize was collected in October 2004 by the group behind SpaceShipOne, whose design Virgin Galactic adapted for VSS Unity and its other piloted, six-passenger spaceliners (which are collectively termed SpaceShipTwo vehicles).

The flight is a bold and risky one, and follows a fatal crash in 2014, when a previous version of the spacecraft came apart midflight, killing one of the pilots.

The company says roughly 600 people have reserved tickets costing between $200,000 and $250,000.

"The anticipated addition of SpaceShipTwo to a growing list of commercial vehicles supporting suborbital research is exciting", Ryan Dibley, Flight Opportunities campaign manager at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, said in a statement.