Tom O'Toole

Weekends

Test of Virgin Galactic’s tourism rocket ship reaches space

A test of Virgin Galactic’s planned tourism rocket ship reached the boundary of space for the first time yesterday (December 13th), climbing 51 miles above California’s Mojave Desert in a supersonic flight before beginning to descend and landing on a runway minutes later. Virgin Galactic wants to take paid customers on the six-passenger ship up to the edge of space, and founder Richard Branson said he thinks they will be able to begin the tourism flights in the second half of next year.

More than 600 people have already committed to pay up to $250,000 for the rides. In yesterday’s test flight, a special jet carrying the rocket ship flew up to near 43,000 feet before releasing it. The ship then ignited its rocket engine and shot up higher with two test pilots on board, one of them a former NASA astronaut.

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