Virgin Galactic plane reaches space, lands back on Earth

15 December, 2018, 16:32 | Author: Gerard Cortez
  • Final frontier A special jet carried the spacecraft towards the edge of space

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said Thursday he estimates he will take his first flight to space within the next six months. That marks the first time Virgin Galactic has broken through the 50-mile boundary, which is where the United States Air Force defines when space begins. The VSS Unity then fired up its rocket engine and quickly traveled up and out of sight from a group of watchers on the ground.

The rocket ship hit an altitude of 82km before beginning its gliding descent, said mission official Enrico Palermo. It landed minutes later.

Ultimately, the company aims to carry paying passengers on its spaceship, which is created to carry six people in addition to two pilots.

Branson, wearing a leather bomber jacket, hugged his son as the spacecraft raced upwards and a commentator called out the altitude.

It planned to "burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach a space altitude for the first time", it added.

Given the tragedy that struck in 2014 when the previous Virgin ship, the VSS Enterprise, crashed as a result of pilot error, the company warns that "there is no guarantee that everything will work perfectly first time".

"Today we have shown Virgin Galactic can open space to the world", company owner Richard Branson said while welcoming the pilots after landing.

The aircraft reached a staggering altitude of 271,268ft after being released by its carrier plane at 43,000ft.

After the test flight, Branson said he aimed for first commercial flight as early as March 2019.

Thumbs up up and away Richard Branson with pilots Rick CJ Sturckow and Mark Stucky
Thumbs up up and away Richard Branson with pilots Rick CJ Sturckow and Mark Stucky

That's "space" by the USA definition, which awards astronaut wings to anyone who goes above 50 miles. "When you are in the test flight program of a space company, you can never be completely, 100 percent sure, because that's what a test flight program is", he said.

But a series of delays has grounded the firm, which suffered a disaster four years ago, when the VSS Enterprise broke apart in midair, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold.

The supersonic flight takes Virgin Galactic a big step closer to turning this dream of commercial space tourism into reality.

Stucky, beaming from an outdoor stage near the runway after returning from the test flight, said he'd been waiting for the moment "for decades".

To date, this flight was the fourth rocket-powered test flight of the VSS Unity, which was first unveiled by Virgin Galactic in 2016.

"It's a day that we've been waiting for for a long time", CEO George Whitesides told reporters Wednesday at the Virgin Galactic facilities at Mojave Air and Space Port.

Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, at least to start, Reuters reported in July.

More than 600 people have bought tickets - some paying $250,000 - for the chance of four minutes of weightlessness beyond the reach of gravity.

Beijing eases back on 'Made in China 2025
The office of the US Trade Representative, which is leading the discussions, did not respond to a BBC request for comment. A full-blown resolution was not expected to be reached in Buenos Aires; the issues that divide them are just too hard .



Lakers Re-Engaging With Suns After Failed Trevor Ariza Trade
The trade would have seen Ariza re-join the Wizards, where he played from 2012 until he was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2014. The Lakers have pursued Suns forward Trevor Ariza , along with several other contenders, according to league sources.

NASA Rejected Russia's Proposal to Jointly Probe Hole in Soyuz
Roscosmos space agency said the aim was to discover whether the "small but dangerous" hole had been made on Earth or in space. They hope that the evidence collected during this spacewalk will finally solve the mystery of what created the hole.

Chargers rally past Chiefs to clinch playoff spot
Gordon characterized his status as a "game-time decision" for Thursday, but players have a knack for sunny prognoses. Mahomes even found a receiver who was on the opposite side of the end zone, which went for a touchdown.

Death toll of Christmas market shooting in Strasbourg rises to 3
Reflecting Strasbourg's worldwide nature, the dead included a Thai tourist, and an Italian was reportedly among the wounded. At least three gunshots were fired in the La Meinau district where a police operation was underway on Thursday.

Shooting near West Bank settlement kills at least 2 Israelis
After he failed to do so, he ran towards two Border Police officers who were stationed nearby and tried to stab them as well. The other Palestinian killed by Israeli forces overnight had been suspected of shooting two Israelis dead two months ago.

Kentucky hemp farmers react to likelihood of new Farm Bill
It also increases farming loan programs, which allow crops to be used as collateral. "I did support those provisions", she said. The statement says members of both caucuses "remain committed to working in a bipartisan manner to address outstanding issues".

Salah strike takes Liverpool into Champions League last 16
It's hard for people that can see to understand, but I think of it as normal to me and I have been like that all my life. The 26-year-old, a regular at Anfield , has a degenerative eye condition which has got worse as he has got older.

Oil prices plunge amid further concerns over slowing global economic growth
Oil prices have fallen sharply since October on signs of an economic slowdown, with Brent losing nearly 30 percent in value. Authorities in Azerbaijan agreed to cut domestic production by 20,000 bpd, despite the country not being part of OPEC.

Despite Miami Dolphins win, problems still exist in chase for playoffs
The play , called "Boise", was easily one of the biggest plays in recent franchise history, up there with wide. But they managed only three first downs and no points thereafter - until the final play.

Scott Walker must stop Wisconsin Republican power grab, successor says
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said he wants to add the criminal justice bill in a move to sidestep opposition. When political parties are about to lose power, they often make a last-ditch effort to advance their policy priorities.