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For the first time ever, Virgin Galactic has reached space — by one definition, anyway.
Virgin's VSS Unity suborbital spaceliner reached an altitude of just 51.4 miles (82.7 kilometers) during a rocket-powered test flight over California's Mojave Desert today (Dec. 13), company representatives said. The spacecraft fired its hybrid rocket motor for 60 seconds, they added.
Prize - October - Group - SpaceShipOne - Design
That prize was collected in October 2004 by the group behind SpaceShipOne, whose design Virgin Galactic adapted for VSS Unity and its other piloted, six-passenger spaceliners (which are collectively termed SpaceShipTwo vehicles).
Today's flight began at just past 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) when VSS Unity took to the skies beneath its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane, VMS Eve, from the Mojave Air and Space Port. Eve dropped Unity at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), at which point pilot Mark Stucky and co-pilot C.J. Sturckow fired up the spaceliner's onboard rocket engine.
Engine - Seconds - Unity - Velocity - Mach
The engine burned for 60 seconds, accelerating Unity to a maximum velocity of Mach 2.9 mph, or 2.9 times the speed of sound, Virgin Galactic representatives said. Today's mission ended at 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT), after the spaceliner touched down at Mojave in a runway landing.
The flight was the fourth rocket-powered test mission of VSS Unity, which Virgin Galactic officially unveiled in February 2016. The other three powered tests occurred in April, May and July of this year, and took Unity to maximum altitudes of 16.0 miles, 21.7 miles and 32.3 miles (25.7, 34.9 and 52 km), respectively.
Running - VSS - Unity - Passengers - Trips
When it's fully up and running, VSS Unity will carry passengers on brief trips to suborbital space, for $250,000 per ticket. These missions will allow customers to...
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