MOJAVE, Calif. (Reuters) – A Virgin Galactic rocket plane on Friday soared to the edge of space with a test passenger for the first time, nudging British billionaire Richard Branson’s company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.
Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, who will train future space tourists, joined pilots onboard SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity to evaluate the customer experience and cabin.
Aviation - Pilots - Seat - House - View
“There’s a saying in aviation that the pilots have the best seat in the house, with the view up there. But today, I’m not sure,” pilot David Mackay said after the flight, referring to what Moses could see and do.
The WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane took off soon after 8 a.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It released the SpaceShipTwo passenger craft at an altitude of about 44,000 feet and then the spaceship was catapulted to 55 miles above Earth.
SpaceShipTwo - Craft - Altitude - Miles - December
The reusable SpaceShipTwo craft previously flew to an altitude of more than 51 miles in December 2018, marking the first U.S. commercial human flight beyond the atmosphere since the end of America’s shuttle program in 2011.
Hundreds of spectators, including Virgin Galactic ticket holders and CEO George Whitesides, gathered on a clear morning in the desert to watch this latest test flight. The flight was postponed from Wednesday due to winds.
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Beth Moses called it an “indescribable ride,” and said “Richard, you’re going to love it.”
Branson is racing against competitors such as Blue Origin, the space business of Amazon.com Inc...
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