Virgin Galactic has finally accomplished the first step in commercial flights into space, having sent one of its suborbital SpaceShipTwo crafts to the outer edges of space. The ship’s two co-pilots took the VSS Unity 51.3 miles above the Earth, which is above the normal defined boundary of Earth, which is generally defined as 50 miles above the ground.
The most exciting part of the achievement is that it is expected to pave the way for commercial customers to one day fly into suborbital space, which could not only allow for some amazing tourism opportunities, but also finally get flat-earthers to bite their tongues. So hey, two birds with one stone, right?
Virgin Galactic’s previous efforts to reach suborbital space did not always fare so well. In 2014, the first SpaceShipTwo encountered a tragic accident. It was an event that would ultimately leave one pilot dead while injuring the other.
Before that, back in 2007, an explosion occurred during testing which tragically killed three people. It took seven years for the company to recover from that setback, only to encounter tragedy again in 2014.
However, founder Richard Branson never wavered in his plans to reach space and stick with the company’s original goal of eventually offering commercial flights into space. To do so, Branson opted for suborbital flights instead of an orbital flight, which would actually require the company to circle the Earth with its ships before returning to the ground.
Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft is planned to be used for passenger rocket rides into space. The forays into space will have the pilots cutting the engine once the ship reaches the appropriate altitude. From there, passengers will get to feel brief weightlessness and view the planet’s outline from space before starting the trip back down to the runway.
Of course, much work remains before that can happen, but Virgin Galactic has taken a big first step.