A new phase in space tourism: High-risk test flight succeeded!

According to Virgin Galactic’s Twitter account, the company’s spaceplane VSS Unity carried a crew of two pilots and four Virgin Galactic employees on a test flight that took off from a runway in New Mexico.

The rocket-powered aircraft is designed to fly approximately 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) above the Earth’s surface while attached under the wings of a massive, double-hulled mothership dubbed “Eve” by the company. The spaceplane was designed to then disengage from the mothership, ignite the rocket engine and launch straight up with its two pilots at the controls.

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Virgin Galactic has confirmed that VSS Unity has successfully completed the blast into space. The spaceplane later returned to a landing at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The flights are designed to reach heights of more than 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) above the Earth, which the United States government recognizes as the limit of space.

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At the peak of the flight, passengers are expected to experience several minutes of weightlessness and gaze out of the airplane’s windows at the curved horizon of Earth and the darkness of space. From takeoff to landing, missions typically take under two hours.

Company officials hope this will be the last test run before Virgin Galactic opens cruises to paying customers in late June, after years of promises, missed deadlines, and Branson selling most of its original stake in the company.

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Source: CNN International

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