Virgin Galactic is working towards making space tourism a reality at the earliest. The company has moved a step closer to achieving the target with another successful trip to space. Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft VSS Unity reached an altitude of over 44,000 feet. It was carried by an aircraft called VMS Eve. VSS Unity was released by the aircraft following which the spacecraft fired its rocket engine to achieve thrice the speed of sound. The spacecraft performed a backflip in microgravity and two pilots, pilots Dave Mackay and CJ Sturckow, at the controls then glided back the spacecraft back to earth. The pair have been to space previously. They have also been given astronaut wings. Pilots are considered to be astronauts in the United States if they have flown above 80 kilometers.
It landed back at the runway of Spaceport America. The spacecraft was also carrying a payload belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). According to the company, it is planning to launch paying customers by the end of next year. VSS Unity spacecraft has been designed to carry six passengers along with two pilots. The company is hopeful of clearing its Federal Aviation Administration milestones with the recent flight. Once cleared, the company would get the license needed to conduct regular spaceflights. Buoyed by the successful test flight, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said it was ‘flawless.’
It is worth mentioning that the company has already got 600 reservations for future flights. Each ticket for the space trip has been sold for USD 200,000 to USD 250,000. The latest trip to space was the company’s first since February 2019 and third to date. The two first spaceflight tests were conducted from its development facility in California’s Mojave Desert. Later, the company moved to its operational base at Spaceport America. Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic was present in person to watch the flight.