Virgin Galactic Says Its Tourism Spaceship Officials Flew into Space

Virgin Galactic Says Its Tourism Spaceship Officials Flew into Space”

Hundreds watched the space tourism plane take off at 7.10am and successfully land back at the test centre, which Mr Branson described as "a relief".

These flights aren't the same as an orbital flight to space - which involves actually sending people around the Earth before coming back home.

In the meantime, a commercial space race is underway as companies rush to build spacecraft that can carry astronauts and tourists into microgravity.

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.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Virgin Galactic says its spaceship, the VSS Unity, is getting ready for the next flight test.

The 68-year-old had been emotional throughout the flight, shedding many tears and hugging his son Sam as it eventually made its way to space altitudes.

Virgin Galactic considers 50 miles (80 kilometers) the boundary of space because that is the distance used by the U.S. Air Force and other U.S. agencies.

"Today we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space to change the world for good".

The Kármán line, at 100km, has commonly been regarded as where space starts, but Virgin Galactic will point to discussions within the scientific community about revising this figure downwards to 80km.

"Reusable vehicles built and operated by private companies are about to transform our business and personal lives in ways which are as yet hard to imagine".

SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Unity, hitched a ride on Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft before separating and taking off under its own power. Around 50 minutes later, it reached space.

In July, after burning the rocket motor for 42 seconds, the VSS Unity reached a height of 32 miles, a part of the atmosphere called the mesosphere.

The first crew tests of SpaceX and Boeing's astronaut capsules are expected next year.

It added: "We also plan to burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach space for the first time".

Branson told CNN in November he hoped to send people to space "before Christmas".

"This is a test flight", said George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, "with all of the novelty and excitement and risk that goes along with a real test flight".

"Commercial space has great potential for American economic and innovative leadership", Elwell said.

"Virgin Galactic officials emphasized that it would be a test flight and there could be an array of reasons why it could end short of its goal or be aborted altogether".

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