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Virgin Galactic could send one of its rockets into space for the first time this week.
Richard Branson's space firm says its next test flight, currently scheduled for Thursday, will 'burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach a space altitude for the first time.'
Branson - Space - Tourism - Firm - Passengers
Branson has previously said his space tourism firm will carry passengers beyond orbit 'not too long after' that - with him on the first flight.
'Our SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, is entering the next stage of testing,' Galactic said.
Phase - Flight - Program - Envelope - Altitude
'During this phase of the flight program we will be expanding the envelope for altitude, air speed, loads, and thermal heating.
'We also plan to burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach a space altitude for the first time.
Flight - Nature - Flight - Test - Milestone
'Although this could happen as soon as the next flight, the nature of flight test means that it may take us a little longer to get to that milestone.'
Virgin has not specified what it means by 'space altitude,' but company officials have previously said they were using the altitude of 50 miles, or approximately 80 kilometers, used by NASA and the U.S. Air Force for awarding astronaut wings.
Virgin - Galactic - Milestone - Altitude - NASA
'For Virgin Galactic, the major milestone that we perceive is the altitude at which NASA and Air Force folks get their astronaut wings, which is 50 miles,' George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said last month.
'For us and our customers, I think we'll be focused on 50 miles, at least at the start.'
Bransonis - Race - SpaceX - Founder - Elon
Bransonis in a race with SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to be the first to send paying tourists into space.
Virgin Galactic, which is charging £190,000 ($250,000) for a spot on one of its commercial flights, has previously said it would send passengers to space...
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