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July 12, 2021 @ 08:40 +03:00
Sir Richard Branson, after nearly 17 years of development and over a billion of dollars invested in Virgin Galactic, achieved his dream and reached space. Speaking from the spacecraft’s cabin, Branson called the spaceflight the “complete experience of a lifetime.” “I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, and honestly nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space,” Branson said after landing.
The company’s spacecraft VSS Unity launched above the skies of New Mexico on Sunday, with two pilots guiding the vehicle carrying the billionaire founder and three Virgin Galactic employees. VSS Unity – after being released by a carrier aircraft called VMS Eve above 40,000 feet – fired its rocket engine and accelerated to faster than three times the speed of sound in a climb to the edge of space. VSS Unity then performed a slow backflip in microgravity, when the Virgin Galactic crew was weightless and floated around the spacecraft cabin. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 86.1 kilometers (53.5 miles, or about 282,000 feet).
The vehicle then returned through the atmosphere in a glide, to land back at the runway of Spaceport America where it took off from earlier. Pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci flew Unity. Alongside Branson in the spacecraft’s cabin is chief astronaut trainer Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and VP of government affairs Sirisha Bandla. Both Mackay and Masucci have previously flown to space, as well as Moses and pilots C.J. Sturckow and Mark Stucky. The U.S. officially considers pilots who have flown above 80 kilometers (or about 262,000 feet) to be astronauts.
VSS Unity is designed to hold up to six passengers along with the two pilots. The company has about 600 reservations for tickets on future flights, sold at prices between $200,000 and $250,000 each.
Richard Branson reaches space on Virgin Galactic flight, CNBC, Jul 12