Virgin Galactic successfully launches tourism rocket ship into space for first time

Virgin Galactic successfully launches tourism rocket ship into space for first time

Virgin Galactic's first two astronauts, Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow, celebrate after one employee proposes in front of the crowd.

The VSS Unity suborbital "SpaceShipTwo" spaceliner took to the skies with the help of its carrier plane, VMS Eve above the Mojave Desert on December 13th.

So the company went to work on updating the design, ultimately rolling out the ship flown Thursday, which goes by the name VSS Unity.

"Virgin Galactic will be the first (in space)", said Branson pointedly. It was an indescribable feeling: "joy, relief, exhilaration and anticipation for what is yet to come", he added.

Branson founded Virgin Galactic back in 2004, shortly after Musk started SpaceX and Bezos started Blue Origin.

VSS Unity achieved a major step forward for the young commercial space tourism industry when its two pilots topped the 50-mile (80-kilometer) above Earth mark during its flight. Then, the VSS Unity activates its rockets to push itself even faster, turning upward at the same time.

At the start of the test flight, a special jet carrying the Virgin Space Ship Unity flew to an altitude near 43,000 feet before releasing the craft. After a few seconds of coasting, VSS Unity's rocket engine fired on.

The 50 second flight pushed VSS Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9 (3,580 km/h) as it zoomed into a climb toward the edge of space, but far short of the Karman Line.

However, the endeavor isn't only a commercial one - the spaceship will also be used for research. In 2008 it said sub-orbital spaceflight trips would be taking place "within 18 months".

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Commercial space travel, something we have seen only in movies so far, got a huge push on Thursday with the first United States passenger service flight successfully blasting off to the edge of space on Thursday.

After arriving back at the test centre, the co-pilot, Stucky, said: "It was a great flight".

According to The BBC, the plane carried with it a mannequin named Annie and four NASA experiments.

The cost of a trip on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft has been estimated to be between $200,000 and $250,000. Three technicians were killed in 2007 by an explosion while testing a propellant system at Scaled Composites LLC, which built SpaceShipOne and was building the first SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic. Branson shunned the money after learning about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in October.

"I'm itching to go", Branson told CBS. "Space is not cheap", he said. This was the company's fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program.

However, more importantly it saw the very first time in history a crewed vehicle built for commercial, passenger purposes, has completed the journey and return to space.

Sir Richard Branson also spoke about the darker moments faced by the Virgin Galactic project, namely the fatal crash in 2014, saying that sadly it was an "unexplainable test pilot error" rather than a technical issue, so on this basis they decided not to give up on the project.

Space tourism could become in a reality as early as 2020.

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