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.
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) April 5, 2018
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.