Just over two months since its first venture to sub-orbital space, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has touched the edge of space for the second time, recording an altitude of 90 km above the Earth’s surface.
On Friday, the company’s rocket-powered commercial SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity reached space for the second time, higher and faster than ever before, as its world record-holding hybrid rocket motor propelled the spaceship at Mach 3.04 to an apogee of 295,007 ft.
“Flying the same vehicle safely to space and back twice in a little over two months, while at the same time expanding the flight envelope, is testament to the unique capability we have built up within the Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company organisations,” Branson said in a statement.
SpaceShipTwo recorded an altitude of 90 km above the Earth’s surface.
This is the beyond altitude recognised by NASA as the edge of space, and where astronauts receive their wings, the express.co.uk reported on Saturday.
At the boundary of space, the three SpaceShipTwo crew members experienced the weightlessness of micro-gravity.
In addition to the two pilots, the flight also included a passenger for the first time.
The latest SpaceShipTwo mission was controlled by a pair of experienced pilots, Chief Pilot Dave Mackay and Pilot Mike “Sooch” Masucci.
Making up the trio was micro-gravity expert Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, who “provided human validation for the data” collected during the flight, the report said.
“I am immensely proud of everyone involved. Having Beth fly in the cabin today, starting to ensure that our customer journey is as flawless as the spaceship itself, brings a huge sense of anticipation and excitement to all of us here who are looking forward to experiencing space for ourselves,” Branson stated.
“The next few months promise to be the most thrilling yet.”
The supersonic plane also carried NASA payloads in order to put the craft at the approximate commercial weight.
Virgin Galactic first reached the edge of space in December 2018 in a landmark achievement for Branson’s space tourism endeavours.