Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic’s Unity suborbital spacecraft today successfully completed its seconnd test flight above 50 miles, carrying a test passenger for the first time.
The vessel was ferried up attached to a larger plan called WhiteKnightTwo, dropped into the sky, and then taken up by rocket-powered engine to more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface just before 9 a.m. local time. It landed safely 15 minutes later. The company said VSS Unity hit Mach 3.04 and traveled to an altitude of 55.87 miles or 295,007 feet, faster and higher than any test flight yet for the vessel.
In addition to the two pilots, Unity carried a test passenger, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor. Besides gathering data, she also unstrapped to experience weightlessness.
The link makes the false claim that this was the first time weightlessness was experienced in a commercial vehicle, even though numerous people have flown weightless on private “vomit comet” airplane flights.
It does appear that Virgin Galactic is finally, after fourteen years, getting close to that first ticketed tourist flight. It also looks possible that they will never quite reach 62 miles, the more commonly accepted definition for the beginnings of space.
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