The ultimate test then real space tourists? Virgin Galactic flies into space for the first time in two years | Science and the planet

Virgin Galactic, the space company of famous British entrepreneur Richard Branson, completed its first manned flight into space about two years ago. A plane took to the edge of the atmosphere Thursday, carrying six Virgin employees as test pilots. Virgin Galactic plans to conduct its first commercial flight with space tourists at the end of June.

On Virgin, passengers sit in a spacecraft suspended first under a carrier aircraft. The aircraft lifts the spacecraft and its occupants into the air, after which the ship is unloaded and continues to fly through space on its own power. Then it descends and lands on itself. Passengers are weightless for several minutes during the flight.

Archive the photo.  This is how it works: the plane takes the spaceship into the air, with the ship itself flying to the edge of the atmosphere.
Archive the photo. This is how it works: the plane takes the spaceship into the air, with the ship itself flying to the edge of the atmosphere. © AFP

The two planes took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Thursday. After takeoff, the plane dropped the spacecraft at an altitude of about 15 kilometers. The spacecraft engine started and the spacecraft rose by its own power to an altitude of about 100 kilometers, three times the speed of sound. At the edge of space, the crew members were momentarily weightless. They saw the curvature of the Earth and the boundary between our planet and the infinity of the universe. Then the plane returned to Earth by gravity. Everything went according to plan.

look. Two years ago, Branson made amazing history with the first space flight by a private passenger. Then the businessman personally accompanied the successful test flight

In July 2021, Branson himself went into space with one of his company’s rocket-powered planes. The eccentric businessman hoped that this would be the beginning of a very profitable venture, tickets for such a “space flight” sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. During Branson’s test flight – which was otherwise successful – the plane was found to be slightly off course. As a result, the space program was halted for a while.

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Virgin Galactic announced earlier this month that Thursday’s flight, which had some Virgin employees on board, is “the final assessment of the entire space system and of the astronaut experience before commercial flights begin at the end of June.” The company said earlier that it had already sold hundreds of tickets to space tourists.

Inside the Virgin Galactic spacecraft.
Inside the Virgin Galactic spacecraft. © AFP

Battle with Musk and Bezos

Branson is competing with Virgin Galactic against Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. They all want to sell space tourism. Musk has already sold a sightseeing trip to the moon to a Japanese billionaire. SpaceX and Blue Origin also participate in the US government’s space program.

Meanwhile, the curtain finally fell Wednesday on another Branson airline, Virgin Orbit. That company ran into financial troubles after a failed space rocket launch earlier this year.

‘Welcome to the new space age’: Virgin boss Branson swims into space (for a while) and beats rivals Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos (+)

The Japanese billionaire takes American DJ Steve Aoki, among others, on a SpaceX flight around the moon

The spaceship is flying.
The spaceship is flying. © AFP

Megan Vasquez

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