This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

In the new race among space tourism companies, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic seems to keep inching closer to the goal of bringing visitors to the final frontier.

Earlier this year, Branson said Virgin Galactic was just “two or three more flights” away from reaching space.

And on Thursday, Virgin Galactic successfully checked off another one of those test flights. During that test launch, the company’s Unity rocket reportedly went faster and higher than ever before.

In fact, Thursday’s launch fired the rocket’s engine for 11 seconds longer than the last test, for a total burn time of 42 seconds. That’s an important benchmark because Virgin Galactic is incrementally increasing the amount of time the engine fires for each flight, Branson told CNBC, until the rocket can reach the target altitude of 264,000 feet — about 7.5x higher than an average commercial flight. At that altitude, astro-tourists onboard can see the curvature of the Earth and feel weightlessness.

“The rocket motor is performing terrific; we’re actually getting some extra thrust,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told CNBC. “Really what that means is that we’re getting up to the speed which will be the actual speeds for our spaceflight journey.”

A two-member crew operated Unity in Thursday’s flight, which was launched by mothership Eve. Unity pushed past the speed of sound at Mach 2.47 speeds and reached a peak altitude of 170,800 feet. It then turned and glided safely back to land on the runway at the space port in the Mojave Desert.

Unity
Unity’s crew in the rocket’s cockpit. Photo by Virgin Galactic via CNBC.

Virgin Galactic already has 700 interested passengers signed up to go to space — for $250,000 a pop.

The space tourism company has made major strides toward its goal after testing was wrenched in 2014 when its first rocket launcher, the Spaceship Enterprise, experienced a fatal crash in October of that year. Virgin Galactic’s first power launch since the fatal accident was in April.

Featured image by Virgin Galactic. 

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.