The Virgin Galactic missile ship climbs to the edge of space as the company plans to offer tourist flights, according to Science & Tech News
Virgin Galactic made its first rocket-propelled flight from New Mexico to the edge of space in a manned shuttle.
Two pilots flew in the VSS Unity when Virgin Galactic offered tourist trips to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere.
A live feed from NASASpaceFlight.com showed the rocket ship accelerating upward and estimated that it peaked at at least 50 miles.
The website later confirmed a landing by radar.
The first test in New Mexico from Spaceport America was repeatedly delayed before the start on Saturday.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, later tweeted a tweet from Virgin Galactic stating that the two pilots and a NASA research payload had reached space.
Sir Richard also shared a video of himself celebrating the mission.
The company aims to begin commercial operations in the next year after testing and several months of downtime for maintenance and other upgrades.
These tests will include a flight that will bring Sir Richard to the edge of space later this year.
In December 2020, computer problems caused by electromagnetic interference prevented the spacecraft’s missile from properly firing.
Instead of flying towards space, the ship and its two pilots had to land immediately.
While Virgin Galactic’s share price rose this week with the announcement of the final test slated for Saturday, it wasn’t enough to beat losses since peaking in February.
Some analysts have warned that the company could take a while to see profits as the exact start of business operations is still in the air.
Virgin Galactic is one of the few companies looking to attract customers interested in space travel.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX will take four people into space on its first purely civilian flight in September. A flight of three business people to the International Space Station should follow in January 2022.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launched a new capsule in January as part of testing to kick off its tourist, scientist, and professional astronaut program.
The start of the first flight with a crew on July 20, the date of the Apollo 11 moon landing, is planned.
Virgin Galactic has already reached space twice – the first time it was in December 2018 from California. The company marked its second successful glide over Spaceport America last June.
Preparations for the latest attempt included a maintenance check on the special carrier aircraft that will take the six-passenger spacecraft to high altitudes, where it will be released to fire its rocket motor and make the final thrust into space.
The flights are designed to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles before the rocket motor is turned off and the crew prepare to re-enter the atmosphere and slide to a landing.
As part of the return journey, a spring system slows down and stabilizes the vehicle when it returns to the atmosphere.