Virgin Galactic Takes a Step Toward Space Tourism Goal

Virgin Galactic's second SpaceShipTwo took to the skies over Mojave, California May 1 for the first test flight of the craft's atmospheric re-entry system, which was modified after a fatal test flight in 2014 destroyed the original ship. The uniquely designed spaceplane have the ability to carry two pilots and six passengers to an altitude of about 100kilometers or 62 miles. SpaceShip Two is an air-launched suborbital plane

"It was a great day here in Mojave," Virgin Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides wrote in an email to Space.com.

The ship is designed to be launched in mid-air from 50,000 feet from the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, called VMS Eve. VSS Unity will then use rocket propulsion to go to more than 50 miles above Earth, which is past the point NASA and the Air Force consider a passenger to be an astronaut.

Virgin Galactic is currently up against fierce competition from the likes of private firms Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space X.

Virgin Galactic Richard Branson  

According to Space.com, the passengers of the suborbital spaceplane will experience microgravity during the time of suborbital hop. George Whitesides utters positively about the said spaceflight program. He says that the expectations about the commercial flights in the next year are realistic.

Virgin Galactic Fatal test flight in 2014 destroyed the original ship.  

Even Virgin Galactic has not revealed the number of flights that will be performed before the beginning of the commercial service. So far 500 people have joined the list to take the ride of the SpaceShip Two.

The renewed push comes just 16 months after Virgin Galactic suffered the loss of a test pilot in a fatal accident with the first plane.

The firm is reportedly moving ahead with plans to build its own space launchers, including the new passenger vehicle and LauncherOne rockets designed to lift small satellites starting as early as next year.

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