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.
Richard Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic hit a major milestone Thursday afternoon.
The company marked its first successful powered spaceship flight since the fatal crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury in October 2014.
A crew of two pilots at Virgin Galactic’s test site at Mojave Air and Space Port (MHV) flew the jet-powered mothership, dubbed Eve, and dropped the spacecraft, Unity, mid-flight. Before the test, CNBC reported that Unity would fire its engines for up to 30 seconds and shoot to fly as fast as 1.5 times the speed of sound. Virgin Galactic confirmed on Twitter that Unity did go supersonic.
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) April 5, 2018
You can see the flight path on FlightRadar24, even as the space plane reaches its peak of roughly 62,000 feet.
The successful powered flight means a step back in the right direction on the space tourism company’s path to launching its future passengers outside the Earth’s atmosphere for about $250,000 a pop. Last year, Branson said his company was closing in on this mission. “We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic sending people into space and Virgin Orbit placing satellites around the Earth,” he said.
Virgin Galactic’s subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, builds and tests the spacecraft. The Spaceship Company had only been testing glide flights without engines since the 2014 crash. Federal investigators found that accident was caused both by human error and insufficient safety procedures, reports The Guardian. The original SpaceShipTwo aircraft disintegrated in seconds after the co-pilot unlocked the space plane’s “feathering system” at the wrong speed. The system is meant to slow down and stabilize the spacecraft as it returns to Earth.
The new SpaceShipTwo features design changes to avoid a similar accident from occurring again.
Featured image by Virgin Galactic.
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, 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.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards