Virgin Galactic completes first powered test flight since 2014's fatal crash

Virgin Galactic completes first powered test flight since 2014's fatal crash

Sir Richard Branson has hailed a successful first powered test flight of Virgin Galactic's new space tourism rocket. The successful test comes nearly four years after a fatal accident on an earlier version of the spaceship (See: Virgin Galactic space craft crashes in California, killing pilot during test flight).

In the one-minute video released by the company, the space plane was shown as it was dropped from the mothership airplane that carried it into the skies just above the Mojave Desert.

Based on Virgin Galactic's post-flight report, pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky and Dave Mackay encountered no serious problems this time around.

The rocket went into a steep climb as the engine burned for 30 seconds and went supersonic, reaching Mach 1.87.

The VSS Unity rocket plane touches down at Mojave Air and Space Port following Thursday's test flight.

Virgin Galactica's goal of space tours has a price tag of $250,000, but the company has not officially disclosed a timeline for its first customer flights, the Los Angeles Times reported. It was the company's first since a catastrophic in-flight breakup in 2014.

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Because of this, Unity can only reach a maximum altitude of 80 km. At this stage, the pilots raised the vehicle's tail booms to a 60 degree angle to the fuselage (the "feathered" configuration).

"It also marks a key moment for the test flight programme, entering now the exciting phase of powered flight and the expansion to full duration rocket burns. While we celebrate that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead". The spaceship, dubbed VSS Unity by the late British physicist Stephen Hawking during a 2016 ceremony, has now undergone 12 total flight tests.

The vehicle disintegrated, killing one pilot and injuring another.

A ticket to ride the space plane now sells for $250,000. The vehicle, created to carry two crew and six space tourists, glided down for a safe landing at the company's spaceport, about 60 miles east of Bakersfield.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo vehicle fires its hybrid rocket motor on Thursday. This means that the Unity will not technically be flying into space.

In addition to setting a new milestone for Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, this successful test flight provides the two with important motor, flight, and vehicle performance data.

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