If you’re freezing your you-know-whats off waiting for a late Virgin Trains service right now, it probably won’t warm the cockles to hear Sir Richard Branson’s efforts to take passengers into space is running a little more smoothly.
Today, the British entrepreneur announced his Virgin Galactic company had proved it “can open space to the world” after the SpaceShip Two passenger rocket successfully travelled to the edge of space and safety returned to the Earth.
The ship, which will eventually transport customers into space, reached an altitude of 82.7km. That’s above what NASA considers sufficient to award astronauts their ‘wings’, but below the 100km Karman Line, which is widely defined as space (via BBC).
Here’s the view:
On Thursday, the SpaceShip Two rocket took off from the Mojave Desert and travelled at up to 2.9 times the speed of sound while ascending. Virgin Galactic says the rocket, which was piloted by Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and CJ Sturckow, burned for 60-seconds on the trip, which should bring the company closer to its goal of running full passenger flights.
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More than 600 people have now put down deposits or paid the $250,000 (around £200k) for the 90-minute flight, but Branson is yet to reveal when those flights will begin taking place.
Virgin Galactic announced its plans to become the first private company to take the public on a mission into space way back in 2008. However, its ambitions were set back following a fatal accident in 2014. Today, realising the dream seems closer than ever.
Branson added: “We saw our biggest dream and our toughest challenge to date fulfilled. How on Earth do I describe the feeling. Today for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship built to carry private passengers reached space.”
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