Virgin Galactic completes third spaceflight of VSS Unity
Sir Richard Branson stands in front of the trading of Virgin Galactic (SPCE) in New York (USA) on October 28, 2019 on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Richard Branson Virgin Galactic IPO NYSE
Virgin Galactic took a step closer to developing its space tourism system on Saturday and successfully completed its first space flight in more than two years.
The company’s starship, named VSS Unity, was lifted to an altitude of approximately 44,000 feet by a carrier aircraft called the VMS Eve. The plane then released the spaceship, which fired its rocket engine and accelerated it to more than three times the speed of sound.
After a slow setback of microgravity at the edge of space, Unity returned with a glide through the atmosphere and landed on the runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico, from which it had previously taken off.
“Now in space,” the company tweeted during the flight.
Pilots CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay flew Unity. The couple previously flew into space, as did fellow Virgin Galactic pilots Michael “Sooch” Masucci and Mark Stucky, and head astronaut trainer Beth Moses, who each received astronaut wings after the company’s first two space flights.
The US officially regards pilots who have flown 50 miles as astronauts.
Virgin Galactic pilots head to the company’s SpaceShipTwo Unity spacecraft, which is attached to the Eve jet carrier aircraft.
Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceship is designed to accommodate up to six passengers along with the two pilots. The company has approximately 600 reservations for tickets on future flights, which sell for prices between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000.
The space flight is the first since February 2019 and the third to date. Virgin Galactic flew two space tests from its development facility in California’s Mojave Desert before moving to its operational base in New Mexico. The company expected to meet some or all of the remaining Federal Aviation Administration milestones with this flight and obtain a key license to conduct regular space flights.
Unity also carried NASA-funded payloads on the mission as part of the agency’s Flight Opportunities program.
Virgin Galactic’s shares rose 22% in the past two trading days after the company announced plans for the spaceflight test to avoid a potential maintenance issue that threatened to delay the flight.
The spaceflight is one of four remaining flights for Virgin Galactic to complete development of its SpaceShipTwo missile system. The second spaceflight test will carry four passengers to test the spacecraft’s cabin, while the third test is to fly founder Sir Richard Branson.
The company’s flight test program has been significantly delayed in recent months. Saturday’s spaceflight was a rerun of a December attempt interrupted by an electromagnetic interference issue, and the company’s promised start of commercial service has been postponed from mid-2020 to early 2022.
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