Virgin Galactic Completes First Commercial Space Flight

Virgin Galactic Completes First Commercial Space Flight

Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered plane, VSS Unity, successfully took three customers and three crew members to the edge of space on June 29.

The vessel took off along a support plane, Eve, and separated in mid-air, firing its rocket to climb almost vertically towards the edge of space. At the peak of the flight, with the rocket shut down, the crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness before the Unity shifted into re-entry mode and began its gliding descent back to Earth. The entire flight lasted about 75 minutes. Unity touched down safely at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The plane peaked at an altitude of 2,79,000 feet (about 85 kilometers or 53 miles), which is a distance slightly short from the US authorities’ standard of the beginning of space for aircraft (50 miles).

Two Italian air force officers and an aerospace engineer joined as the customers on the flight, along with three Virgin Galactic crew members, two of them piloting the vehicle.

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, has a waiting list of about 800 customers who have paid between $250,000 (approximately €235,000) and $450,000 for such a trip. Branson himself made a flight in July 2021.