Virgin Galactic Successfully Enters Space for Second Time
Sir Richard Branson's space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, successfully reached space on Friday for the second time.
The company launched another sub-orbital test flight of its SpaceShipTwo out of the Mojave Desert Air and Space Port (MHV). SpaceShipTwo, which was launched by its mothership WhiteKnightTwo, reached an altitude of 295,007 feet, or 55.87 miles above Earth's surface, and reached Mach 3 speeds — that's three times faster than the speed of sound.
At that altitude and speed, humans would be able to see the curvature of the Earth and experience weightlessness.
Not only was the test flight noteworthy because it was a successful step toward bringing paying astronaut tourists to the edge of space, but it was also the first time that a third crew member -- in addition to the two pilots -- rode along on the launch.
Virgin Galactic's Beth Moses was on board SpaceShipTwo during Friday's flight. She is the company's Chief Astronaut Instructor, and part of her job is to test and verify the flight cabin experience and "spaceflight environment" for its commercial flights. Virgin Galactic will fly as many as six passengers at a time in the back cabin of its space ship. Customers will pay $250,000 to hitch a ride to the final frontier, and part of that fee also goes toward basic astronaut training. The company already has at least 750 passengers who have signed up and paid to be launched to the edge of Earth's atmosphere.
Richard Branson said he will be launched into space before Virgin Atlantic's customer flights begin. Earlier this month, Branson hinted that his first space flight might take place on his birthday in July, which is also the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission.
"So yeah, July the 18th is my birthday so why not?" he told ABC News of his plans to board the rocket ship. "We'll go for that."
The company first successfully reached space in a test flight in December 2018.