Virgin Galactic’s First Spaceflight on December 13th 2018.
Credit: Virgin Galactic/Quasar Media 2018

Today, Virgin Galactic conducted its fourth powered test flight and first space flight of its commercial SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity.

The achievement has been recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who announced today that early next year they will present pilots Mark Stucky and Frederick Sturckow with FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC. Sturckow as a four-time Space Shuttle pilot will become the only person to have been awarded NASA and FAA wings.

View from the heights.
Credit: Virgin Galactic/Quasar Media 2018

Mach 2.5

Today’s flight also involved the NASA Flight Opportunities Program which flew four space science and technology experiments on VSS Unity, making this Virgin Galactic’s first revenue generating flight.

A 60-second planned rocket motor burn propelled VSS Unity to almost three times the speed of sound and to an apogee of 51.4 miles.

After a Mach 2.5 supersonic re-entry into the atmosphere, which utilized Unity’s novel “feathering” configuration, the pilots guided the spaceship down to a smooth runway landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Remaining test flight program

Said Richard Branson, the entrepreneurial backer of the project: “Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space. Today we completed our first revenue generating flight and our pilots earned their Commercial Astronaut Wings,” he said.

Richard Branson (center) and Virgin Galactic’s first two astronauts.
Credit: Virgin Galactic/Quasar Media 2018

“We will now push on with the remaining portion of our flight test program, which will see the rocket motor burn for longer and VSS Unity fly still faster and higher towards giving thousands of private astronauts an experience which provides a new, planetary perspective to our relationship with the Earth and the cosmos,” Branson said in a Virgin Galactic press statement.

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