Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Virgin Galactic On Verge of Commercial Space Flight

Virgin Galactic Reaches Space and Is One Step Closer to Space Tourism Workers at the Virgin Galactic headquarters work on a spaceplane
Doris Mccormick | 17 December, 2018, 17:11

This was the SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship's fourth test flight in a race that aims to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

No spacecraft with people on board has taken off from USA soil since the American space shuttle programme ended, as scheduled, seven years ago. NASA relies on Russian Federation to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

"This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration".

Virgin Galactic first promised sub-orbital spaceflight trips for tourists back in 2008, claiming that the first trips would be happening "within 18 months". The crew capsule reached 93 kilometers altitude, however NASA's statement was that it counts it as a spaceflight for Hague and his Russian crew mate Aleksey Ovchinin because they "launched and landed in a spacecraft or an intended mission to the International Space Station" without mentioning any altitude.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo (right) launches for a suborbital test flight in Mojave, California.

It had reached space altitudes around 50 minutes after take-off, which the company's Twitter account acknowledged with a tweet which read: "SpaceShipTwo, welcome to space".

"We made it to space", Enrico Palermo, president of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's manufacturing partner, said while addressing a crowd of cheering spectators at space port in California.

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"Reusable vehicles built and operated by private companies are about to transform our business and personal lives in ways which are as yet hard to imagine", Whitesides said.

Today's launch of SpaceShipTwo was an vast breakthrough in the push for privatized space travel, as well as for Virgin Group.

"With a good rocket motor burn, the mission went beyond the 50-mile altitude target", tweeted NASA.

According to Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight saw a 60 second planned rocket motor burn which propelled VSS Unity to nearly three times the speed of sound and to an apogee of 51.4 miles.

The flight commenced at approximately 10 a.m EST when the spacecraft took to the air beneath the wings of the WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier aircraft. Branson is now in a race with SpaceX's Elon Musk and Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos to be the first to carry private tourists to space. Through public-private partnerships with SpaceX and Boeing, NASA is developing two new "commercial crew" systems to ferry crews back and forth to ISS.

Its first test flights with humans on board are scheduled for next year.

Virgin's latest flight test comes four years after the original SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight that killed the co-pilot and seriously injured the pilot. Branson bought the rights to the design soon thereafter with the goal of making suborbital passenger flights to space routine.

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