Virgin Galactic On Course To Welcome Tourists Next Year After Successful Test Flight
Virgin Galactic is one step closer to commercial space travel after completing its first successful manned flight.
The company’s VSS Unity craft blasted off from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Saturday, May 22. As it took off into the air, it ignited its rocket, hurtling pilots Dave Mackay and CJ Sturcko to the edge of space, reaching a height of 89km (55 miles) before gliding back down to Earth.
Virgin has conducted three successful spaceflights in the past, with a December flight rescheduled due to technical issues – but this human test marks an important milestone for getting tourists on-board sooner rather than later.
Check out the spaceflight in the video below:
The company said in a statement, ‘VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 [three times the speed of sound] after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve, and reached space, at an altitude of 55.45 miles before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America.’
Sturcko, who flew as pilot-in-command, is now the first person in history to fly to space from three different US states.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, said, ‘Today’s flight showcased the inherent elegance and safety of our spaceflight system, while marking a major step forward for both Virgin Galactic and human spaceflight in New Mexico.’
He added, ‘Space travel is a bold and adventurous endeavour, and I am incredibly proud of our talented team for making the dream of private space travel a reality. We will immediately begin processing the data gained from this successful test flight, and we look forward to sharing news on our next planned milestone.’
In the battle for space tourism supremacy, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is arguably making the biggest steps for mankind, and is due to take Tom Cruise into space to film a movie this year. However, Sir Richard Branson has around 600 people (a mixture of celebrities and the wealthy) waiting to fly with Virgin.
Branson said, ‘Fifteen years ago, New Mexico embarked on a journey to create the world’s first commercial spaceport. Today, we launched the first human spaceflight from that very same place, marking an important milestone for both Virgin Galactic and New Mexico.’
He added, ‘I am proud of the team for their hard work and grateful to the people of New Mexico who have been unwavering in their commitment for commercial spaceflight from day one. Their belief and support have made today’s historic achievement possible.’
Branson is due to embark on his own spaceflight later this year.
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