Virgin Galactic made its first successful space flight in almost two years on Thursday, the company said, after an “upgrade period” to make safety improvements to its fleet.
This is the fifth time the space tourism company has crossed the boundaries of space, and has been billed as the final test before commercial operations can start at the end of June, with members of the Italian Air Force as the first paying customers.
Landing, VSS Union! the company’s tweet, referring to the name of the company’s spacecraft. “Our crew and spacecraft returned to Earth after a smooth landing at Spaceport America, New Mexico.”
The mission “is a tremendous accomplishment for everyone at Virgin Galactic,” added CEO Michael Colglazier, in a statement.
The Unity 25 mission flew four company employees to an altitude of more than 54 miles (87 kilometers) above sea level.
Virgin Galactic’s space program has suffered years of delays and a 2014 crash in which a pilot died.
Unlike other companies that use vertical launch rockets, Virgin Galactic uses a two-pilot carrier plane that takes off from the runway, reaches a high altitude, and drops the rocket-powered plane flying into space at nearly Mach 3, before hurtling back down to Earth.
Total travel time is 90 minutes, with passengers experiencing several minutes of weightlessness in the spaceship cabin.
Its first fully manned flight in 2021 includes the company’s flamboyant founder, British billionaire Richard Branson.
But what appeared to be a breakthrough moment for the company was undermined by an official safety investigation after the spacecraft was found to have fallen below its assigned airspace during descent.
The Federal Aviation Administration then allowed the company to resume activity after promising corrective action.
Virgin Galactic has sold 800 tickets for future commercial flights—600 between 2005 and 2014 for $200,000 to $250,000, and 200 since then for $450,000 each.
It competes in the “suborbital” space tourism sector with billionaire Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin, which has sent 32 people into space.
But since the September 2022 crash during an unmanned flight, the Blue Origin rocket has been grounded. The company promised in March to resume space flights soon.
© 2023 AFP
Quote: Virgin Galactic resumes spaceflight after two year hiatus (2023, May 25) retrieved May 30, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-virgin-galactic-resumes-spaceflights-year.html
This document is subject to copyright. Notwithstanding fair dealing for the purposes of personal study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.