The biggest story today belongs to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, a company dedicated to bring space travel to everyday people (who have the money to drop). In between the unveiling of the Spaceship Two VSS Unity a couple of years ago, they have several incremental test flights, but today, at Mojave, CA, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, VSS Unity, made history when it successfully completed her maiden spaceflight. Yes. VSS Unity has touched space!
This maiden space fight is the first human spaceflight to be launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011 and it is also the first time a crewed vehicle built for commercial, passenger service, has reached space. It was a major milestone indeed and one that’s acknowledged by U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The U.S. civil aviation authority announced that it will present pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow with FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC next year.
The event was witnessed by Virgin Galactic’s staff and their families, special guests and media.
“(The space flight) saw a 60 second planned rocket motor burn which propelled VSS Unity to almost three times the speed of sound and to an apogee of 51.4 miles… As VSS Unity coasted upwards through the black sky and into space, Virgin Galactic Mission Control confirmed the news and congratulated the two astronaut pilots: “Unity, Welcome to Space”.”
It is worthy to note that while the rocket motor did burned longer than it had in the past, it was not the full duration. Anywho, upon reaching space (beyond mesosphere, I believe), the spaceship made a Mach 2.5 supersonic re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, enabled by by VSS Unity’s unique “feathering” configuration (i.e. the odd aircraft form). So, there you have it, mankind (very rich mankind, that is) is one step closer in realizing the dream of space travel.
Speaking of dream… being an astronaut is a dream of many kids, but unfortunately, only a handful is able to realize this dream. With commercial spaceflight becoming a reality, though, the dream is not dashed – at least not if the kid has grown up to be a successful, rich person.
All images courtesy of Virgin Galactic.
Source: Virgin Galactic.