Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo successfully completed its fifth test flight and the second trip into space in February. After facing several setbacks, the company successfully flew VSS Unity into space for the first time in December, in which it reached an altitude of 51.4 miles.
The flight marked a milestone in Virgin Galactic’s goal to take paying passengers on space flights to altitudes where they will experience weightlessness, witness the curvature of Earth and stare at a sky full of stars. the firm’s founder Richard Branson, a number of its employees, and the press watched as the spaceship, attached to mother ship Eve, launched from the runway at its base in Mojave, Calif.
The two ships traveled to 40,000 feet together, until SpaceShipTwo was released. From there, the crew activated the rocket engine for 60 seconds, propelling the ship to a speed of Mach 2.9 (about 2,200 mph), continuing its climb beyond the atmosphere. Soon after passing the 50-mile mark, the crew turned the spacecraft back to Mojave and glided it down to the runway, as Robb Report notes.
The mission’s two pilots, Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow, were awarded Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Astronaut Wings at a Washington, D.C., ceremony in February. The flight marked the first time that a crewed vehicle built for commercial passenger service reached space and was also Virgin Galactic’s first revenue-generating launch.
As passenger demand increases, Virgin Galactic plans to build two more crafts to help ease this issue. Currently, all of the $250,000 seats are currently filled, though if you are interested in booking a flight, you can sign up for updates on new offerings by registering with the company’s website.