Richard Branson’s space tourism venture Virgin Galactic has taken a huge step towards their first operational flight. On April 5, 2018, the company reported that their first spaceship, SpaceShipTwo, also know as VSS Unity had successfully completed its first “supersonic, rocket-powered flight”.
In an official statement published on the company’s website, Virgin Galactic reported that “[VSS] Unity’s rocket motor was brought to life and the pilots aimed the spaceship upwards into an 80 degree climb, accelerating to Mach 1.87 during the 30 seconds of rocket burn.”
The two pilots behind the controls of the historic flight were pilot Mark Stucky and co-pilot Dave Mackay. During the flight, the pair achieved an altitude of just over 25.5 kilometers (84,271 ft). To put that in context, the cruising altitude of a Boeing 747 is just under 12 kilometers (39,000 ft). However, 25.5 kilometers is still significantly short of the Kármán line (an altitude of 100 kilometers that is generally considered to be where outer space begins).
Late last year, Virgin founder Richard Branson stated that he would be “very disappointed” if VSS Unity was not operational by 2018. Following the spaceship’s successful test, it would seem the Branson’s ambitious target may very well be obtainable.
Although flights on the VSS Unity may very well commence this year, the ride will be distinctly outside the budget of most. In 2013 the first passengers of Branson’s spaceship booked their tickets for between $200,000 and $250,000 a piece. However, with tickets to the general public yet to go on sale, it is still unclear if those prices represented more of an investment than the reality of a purchase price.
Image Credit: Virgin Galactic