Virgin Galactic test flight: Will Richard Branson launch flights to SPACE by 2019? | Science | News

Virgin’s passenger spacecraft SpaceShipTwo blasted off towards on Tuesday, completing its second test flight in two months.

The rocket-powered craft, dubbed VSS Unity, took off from Mojave Air and Space Port and trailed the edge of space at whopping heights of nearly 115,000 feet above Earth.

The Virgin spacecraft broke the sound barrier at speeds of Mach 1.9, or 1,457mph.

The media company’s rocket branch said: “Today VSS Unity completed her second powered test flight in less than two months. Great job to all involved.”

The successful flight test was also welcomed by Mr Branson who teased his company was one step closer to “realising its goals”.

Mr Branson said: “It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space.

“Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. 

“We are getting ever closer to realising our goals.Congratulations to the whole team.”

Virgin’s space tourism hopes were dashed in 2014 with the fatal break up of Virgin Galactic’s Enterprise craft and its pilot in 2014.

But the British billionaire appears to be picking up speed again after a two-year pause as he carried out the first SpaceShipTwo launch less than two months ago.

The Virgin Galactic flight test saw the spacecraft reach sustained speeds of Mach 1.5.

On Tuesday, the VSS Unity was piloted by pilots Dave Mackay and Mark “Forger” Stucky who also controlled the April test flight. 

Data collected during the flight will help Virgin Galactic prepare for its next spacecraft test.

Virgin Galactic’s goal is to bridge the gap between commercial flights and space exploration by pioneering space tourism for those who can afford the hefty plane tickets.

The space company aims to kickstart operations in the next 12 months and has already pre-booked 700 tickets, worth $250,000 each.

Stephen Attenborough, commercial director of Virgin Galactic, said a backlog of reserved tickets will likely extend until 2021 for anyone interested in the unprecedented experience.

Off the back of Tuesday’s flight test, Mr Branson said: “Today we saw VSS Unity in her natural environment, flying fast under rocket power and with a nose pointing firmly towards the black sky of space.

“The pathway that Unity is forging is one that many thousands of us will take over time, and will help share a perspective that is crucial to solving some of humanity’s toughest challenges on planet Earth.”

Virgin Galactic is now racing with Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

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