Science

Branson 'wins space race' after successful Virgin Galactic flight

Branson 'wins space race' after successful Virgin Galactic flight

The passenger rocket reached a height beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin, marking a huge leap in the firm's space programme.

As for VSS Unity itself, Virgin Galactic confirmed at 16:14 UTC that the spacecraft had landed safely at Mojave Airport, a little over 10 minutes after touching space.

Virgin Galactic is racing against other companies to send clients to space.

The supersonic flight takes Virgin Galactic closer to turning the long-delayed dream of commercial space tourism into reality.

Over 600 people from more than 50 countries have reserved their places, at $250,000 dollars (£200,000) a seat, on the six-passenger rocket.

Founder Richard Branson greeted the pilots after the test, declaring "Space is Virgin territory!"

For the first time in the company's history, Virgin Galactic made it more than 50 miles up above Earth. That differs from a long-held view that the boundary is reached at 100 kilometers. On Wednesday, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said that's the standard used by the U.S. Air Force and other U.S. agencies.

However you measure it, though, the flight represents a triumph for Virgin Galactic - and a stark change from just over four years ago, when the company grabbed headlines for a very different, altogether tragic reason. "Then I plan to go up into space", he said, noting he looks forward to that next year and is "very, very excited".

Teen arrested in murder of pregnant 17-year-old in Indiana
Rouhselang told her mother she was meeting Trejo behind their home to discuss the pregnancy at around 11 p.m. on Saturday. Her body was found in a dumpster in their hometown of Mishawaka, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Chicago.

At the start of the test flight, a special jet carrying the Virgin Space Ship Unity (VSS Unity) flew to an altitude near 13,100 metres before releasing the craft.

Unlike a traditional rocket which takes off from the ground, VSS Unity is flown to 43,000 feet underneath a specially designed airliner before being dropped and subsequently lighting up its rocket engines to power it vertically to an even higher altitude. The pilots fired up the rocket for 30 seconds, keeping the nose pointed up, and reached Mach 1.87 before coasting to an altitude of 84,271 feet and gliding back to a landing. After taking off at 7:11 am this morning and detaching from WhiteKnightTwo, its custom airliner mothership, pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky and Rick "CJ" Sturckow reached a height 51.4 miles high in the craft to the edge of the stratosphere where they experienced weightlessness and the curvature of the Earth.

"We're obviously hoping for a good day tomorrow, but the risk of a not-good day is still possible", Whitesides continued.

Today, the test flight program seems to be back on track.

He is said to have shed a few tears and hugged his son as they watched the aircraft head off on its 90-minute journey.

During descent, the craft's twin tails are created to rotate upward to slow it down, then return to a normal flying configuration before the craft glides to a landing on a runway.

"Our SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, is entering the next stage of testing", Galactic said ahead of the milestone flight.


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