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Space tourism came a step closer to reality as Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft powered its rocket engine and completed its second supersonic flight over the California Mojave Desert.
The rocket fired for 31 seconds, hurling the sleek vehicle and its two pilots at a speed of Mach 1.9 (nearly double the speed of sound or about 1
"Floating the unit at supersonic speed is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking," said Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson in his post. "We are increasingly approaching the realization of our goals."
Branson was on-site to watch the flight, which took place about two months after the completion of the first rocket flight on April 5, 2018, years after the crash of another Virgin Galactic spacecraft from October 31, 2014, in which the test pilot Michael Alsbury was killed.
In today's test, Unity and his pilots Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay were carried up under the wings of the corporate jet, "Mothership," Eve, before being released to fly alone. The spacecraft rose steeply before descending and landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.
Today's flight was conducted to test Unity's handling characteristics and performance of its control systems, according to the blog Post
Virgin Galactic is one of the few companies that want to give paying customers the chance to make short flights into space. Other companies include Elon Musk's SpaceX company and Jeff Bezos & # 39; s company Blue Origin, who have performed several tests on their New Shepard missile and capsule system. Blue Origin says it could start bringing customers into space later this year, CNBC reported.
Virgin Galactic has considered carefully when it might start to bring customers into space. But earlier this month, Branson told the BBC that "we're talking about months away, not years away."
And Branson could be one of Virgin Galactic's earliest passengers. "I'm doing astronaut training," he told the BBC. "I'm doing fitness training, centrifuge and other training so hopefully my body will get along well when I go into space."
Additional coverage by Denise Chow.
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