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Virgin Galactic First Flight to Space Imminent

What started out as a promise made by Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson at the beginning of December could become a reality as soon as this week, as the company is getting ready for its first flight to the edge of space.
Virgin Galactic getting ready for the first flight to space 1 photo
In a statement released on Wednesday, Virgin Galactic says its spaceship, the VSS Unity, is getting ready for the next flight test. This one will see new limits being tested regarding altitude, air speed, loads, and thermal heating, but will also mark the first foray into space of a ship meant as a tourist attraction.

The exact date of the flight to space was not announced, but Virgin says this milestone could be achieved as soon as Thursday. That is tomorrow.

The preferred window for the flight is December 13, “pending acceptable weather and technical readiness.” The motor burn on this flight will be longer than ever before, but still not to its full duration. Virgin predicts the pilots onboard the Unity “will experience an extended period of micro-gravity” and “have some pretty spectacular views.”

Given the tragedy that struck in 2014 when the previous Virgin ship, the VSS Enterprise, crashed as a result of pilot error, the company warns that “there is no guarantee that everything will work perfectly first time.”

“Our team’s biggest priority is to use meticulous planning and preparation to ensure that stages are dealt with safely, and that every outcome informs and improves future performance,” the statement reads.

VSS Unity launches horizontally at 50,000 feet (15 km) from the underbelly of its carrier plane, VMS Eve. The ship has a capacity of six passengers and two crew and comes as a bullet-shaped cylinder measuring 60 feet in length (18 meters).

When fully operational, it will be used to fly tourists to orbit for short periods, for a fee of around $250,000. The first civilian to climb on board the ship will be Branson himself.

press release

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