Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has successfully made it to space for the first time with VSS Unity, their SpaceShipTwo-class rocket-powered plane, during the craft's 4th test flight.
Virgin Galactic wound up surpassing its previous record of 32.3 miles from July's test flight and reached just below the Kármán line at 62 miles above Earth, which marks the boundary between the upper atmosphere and outer space. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos launched Blue Origin, which also plans to take space tourists on suborbital trips.
Sir Richard Branson cheered when SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity touched back down at the Mojave test centre in California. A typical NASA "sounding rocket", a small rocket generally launched with equipment on board to take measurements and scientific experiments during an approximately 30-minute sub-orbital flight only, reaches anywhere from 30-80 miles above the Earth.
Virgin Galactic's tourism spaceship climbed more than 80km high above California's Mojave Desert, reaching for the first time what the company considers the boundary of space.
Branson said earlier in the year he was "embarrassed" at the amount of claims he had made about the Virgin Galactic fight date.
CEO George Whitesides says that's the standard used by the Air Force and other US agencies.
Virgin Galactic is spaceflight company within the London-based Virgin Group.
The rocket-powered plane, VSS Unity, was flown by two veteran pilots to a maximum altitude of 51.4 miles, surpassing the 50-mile mark that the United States government recognizes as the edge of space.
Virgin Galactic aims 'to reach space' on test flight
"The anticipated addition of SpaceShipTwo to a growing list of commercial vehicles supporting suborbital research is exciting", Ryan Dibley, Flight Opportunities campaign manager at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, said in a statement.
This May 29, 2018 photo provided by Virgin Galactic shows the VSS Unity craft during a supersonic flight test.
The successful flight is significant progress toward the start of commercial flights that Virgin Galactic promised more than a decade ago.
In regards to the price of getting a ticket to space, Branson said he would like to see the price drop to around £30,000 ($40,000) or £38,000 ($50,000) over ten years.
When asked about Virgin Galactic's competitors in a recent interview with CNN Business, Branson said it was not a "race".
Ultimately, the company aims to carry paying passengers on its spaceship, which is created to carry six people in addition to two pilots.
"Today we completed our first revenue-generating flight and created two new astronauts - well, one of them was already an astronaut but you know what I mean".
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