Branson brings space tourism closer with successful Unity test

Virgin Galactic conducts first rocket-powered test since 2014 crash

Branson brings space tourism closer with successful Unity test

Unity was built by Virgin Galactic's partner, The Spaceship Company.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo completed a successful rocket-powered test flight Thu., April 5, 2018.

Richard Branson took to twitter and announced that "space seems tantalisingly close now" after the spacecraft's flight concluded successfully. This was the first time Unity has achieved supersonic flight.

Piloted by Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay, VSS Unity took off attached to VMS Eve, the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft piloted by Mike Masucci and Nicola Pecile.

The spaceplane coasted up to an altitude of 84,271 feet before arcing over and beginning the long glide back to Earth.

The pilots raised the craft's unique twin tail booms to a 60-degree angle to the fuselage to slow and stabilize Unity during the initial stages of descent, and then lowered them back to the conventional configuration lower in the atmosphere.

Virgin Galactic's original SpaceShipTwo vehicle broke apart during an October 2014 test flight that killed the co-pilot and seriously injured the pilot, in an accident that was ultimately attributed to pilot error.

Branson tweeted that the company was now "back on track" after the successful powered flight.

"It also marks a key moment for the test flight programme, entering now the exciting phase of powered flight and the expansion to full duration rocket burns. We applaud Virgin Galactic for its extensive work readying its spacecraft, and we look forward to its achievement within the commercial space and space tourism industry", the State of Florida's aerospace development branch stated. The spaceship reached 25,000 m before making a smooth runway landing, the company said.

Ultimately, Virgin Galactic hopes to start ferrying space tourists into the edge of space, generating revenue from wealthy individuals willing to pay for the privilege.

Virgin Galactica's aim of space tours has a pricetag of £250,000, however the company has not officially revealed a deadline for its very first customer flights, even the LosAngeles Times reported.

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