Billionaire Richard Branson has successfully launched his own rocket into the edge of space and landed back on Earth.
Branson, who owns the Virgin Galactic, was joined by five other company employees for the space voyage that took them to the edge of space.
- This is the first time the Virgin Galactic ship has reached the edge of space with all seats of the ship occupied.
- The SpaceShipTwo Unity space plane was originally set to launch at 7 a.m. MT on Sunday, July 11.
- The flight was pushed to 8:30 a.m. MT. It launched around 8:40 a.m. MT.
- The entire flight up to space and back down lasted about one hour. Branson arrived back in New Mexico at about 9:40 p.m. MT.
Video footage showed the ship soar into the sky toward space. Branson and his crew broke the barrier into known space before coming back down to New Mexico.
How the SpaceShipTwo Unity space plane reached space
Per The Washington Post, the space plane launched from a mother ship, which carried it 45,000 feet into the air. The spaceplane was then released. From there, pilots fired off the engines. The ship then traveled to the edge of space before it soared back down toward Earth, where it reached a runway landing.
- The SpaceShipTwo Unity reached “the 50-mile altitude that the Federal Aviation Administration recognizes as the edge of space,” The Washington Post reports.
- The flight was “the fourth time the craft has reached that goal, but the first time with all six seats occupied,” according to The Washington Post.
The trip comes after years of Branson yearning to visit space, The Associated Press reports. He was due to take off later this summer. But Branson changed his mind once word got out that Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos announced he planned to ride his own flight to space on July 20.
Virgin Galactic and the future of space travel
Branson and Virgin Galactic have larger plans than Branson's trip. In fact, there’s a goal to bring customers to the stars. In fact, Virgin Galactic shared a design of its spaceship back in July 2020, showing off a cabin that could provide a unique experience for space travelers, as I wrote for the Deseret News.
- “When we created Virgin Galactic, we started with what we believed would be an optimal customer experience and then built the spaceship around it,” Branson said in a statement.
- “We will continue with that ethos as we expand our fleet, build our operations and underpin Virgin Galactic’s position as the spaceline for Earth,” he said. “This cabin has been designed specifically to allow thousands of people like you and me to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely — and that is incredibly exciting.”