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Virgin Galactic is one giant leap closer to launching rich people into space

Virgin Galactic is one giant leap closer to launching rich people into space
[Photo: courtesy of Virgin Galactic]

Virgin Galactic has conducted the first rocket-powered flight test of Unity, its new SpaceShipTwo. A crew of two piloted Unity as it took off from Mojave Air and Space Port, boosted by the jet-powered mothership Eve. Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson said in a tweet that the flight reached Mach 1.6, more than one and a half times the speed of sound. (No word on how loud the boom was, though.)

“Space feels tantalisingly close now,” Branson tweeted.

Unity underwent extensive engine testing and glide tests before it was deemed ready for a powered test flight. The successful test is a particularly poignant milestone for Virgin Galactic, as it comes four years after an earlier version of of its spaceship broke apart in midair during a powered test flight, killing one of the pilots.

Now that Virgin Galactic’s space shuttle has passed its big test, the company is one step closer to charging rich space tourists $250,000 a pop for a front-row seat to the stars.

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