Then tragedy, multiple delays and many rivalries, Virgin Galactic has carried out its first fully equipped space flight. The Unity 22 mission saw founder Richard Branson join Beth Moses, Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla aboard SpaceShipTwo while testing the spacecraft and conducting experiments. Branson, as you may guess, was here for prestige and to measure “the private astronaut experience”.
The flight included some controversy. Blue Origin, which first equipped space flight it’s a few days away, he has Virgin talking to the pistachio arguing that SpaceShipTwo would not really enter space – the vessel reached an altitude of “only” 53.4 miles during Unit 22 where the Kármán line (the formal demarcation for space) is 62 miles. If you focus on the technicalities, Jeff Bezos will be the first corporate tycoon to cross this symbolic barrier.
Whether you agree or not, the flight is an important success for Virgin. It’s the first complete test of SpaceShipTwo, and it paves the way for commercial space flights if and when starting in 2022. Branson’s dress has generated money with test flights, but it won’t fulfill its business ambitions until tourists can finally use their tickets and have a taste of space.
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