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Near-space Virgin Galactic mission successful: 85 km heigh reached

Galactic 01 is the first fully commercial flight

03.Jul.23 5:33 AM
By Shawn Highstraw
Photo Twitter


Near-space Virgin Galactic mission successful: 85 km heigh reached
Virgin Galactic took paying customers to the edge of space for the first time on Thursday afternoon. A milestone for Richard Branson's space company, which has been working on offering this kind of tourist flight for almost two decades.

A ticket for the flight costs around $450,000. For that amount, tourists take a trip of almost an hour and a half. They fly to an altitude of over 85 kilometres and are then weightless for a few minutes, before returning to Earth.

The flight left a little after 4.30pm (CET) from spaceport Spaceport America in the US state of New Mexico. A plane brought the rocket module with passengers to an altitude of about 15 kilometres. There, the module was disconnected and the rocket continued towards space.

The first commercial flight, dubbed Galactic 01, had four people on board, including members of the Italian Air Force. They carried out short scientific experiments during the flight into the effects of microgravity, among other things. At 17:45 (CET), the vehicle landed back on Earth.

The flight is a significant moment for Virgin Galactic, which has been in existence since 2004. The aerospace company has been working for years on a way to take tourists to the edge of space, but suffered quite a few technical setbacks in recent years.

In 2010, the plane made its first test flight with a rocket on board. Four years later, another flight went wrong, when the co-pilot was killed in a crash. US authorities then launched an investigation.

The Galactic 01 flight was also postponed. First it was supposed to take place at the end of 2021, but due to technical problems it was postponed for two years.

The Italians are not the first to make this trip. Virgin Galactic boss Branson himself already made a test flight in 2021.

The next flight is due in August. After that, the company plans to take tourists to the frontier of space every month. According to various reports, there is already a waiting list of eight hundred people who want to join such a flight.

Virgin Galactic could use the revenue well. Last year, the company made a loss of $500 million.

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