Richard Branson Is One Step Closer to Going to Space

Jul 27, 2018

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. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. 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's crew in the rocket's cockpit. Photo by Virgin Galactic via CNBC.
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. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

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.