Virgin Galactic Plays with Just the Tip of Space

Jared Ortega /
Jared Ortega /

Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space tourism company have taken their first supersonic plane through the edge of space for the first time since Branson himself took the Maiden Voyage. Best known as VSS Unity, the company-owned plane took two pilots along with a crew of four employees of Virgin Galactic on a test flight on May 25th.

Per the Virgin Galactic Twitter account, the plane departed a runway in New Mexico around 11:15 am Eastern. Soaring to 50,000 feet above the surface of Earth, all while attached to a mothership named “Eve” by the company. The space plane detached from the underbelly and shot a rocket engine going straight up, with the two pilots in full control of the aircraft.

At 12:30 pm Eastern, Virgin Galactic confirmed that the plane had completed its blast into space and had now coasted back to New Mexico’s Spaceport America.

By reaching a minimum distance of 50 miles above the surface, they have reached the outer limits of what the United Space recognizes as space. Upon reaching the peak of their flight, the passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness. They will then be free to gaze outside the windows at proof that the Earth is round via the curved horizon, as well as the total blackness that is outer space.

The team of executives is excited at the prospect of this flight finishing its test runs, and they hope to get paying customers up by the end of June. With Branson being forced to sell off chunks of the project to get this far, his ownership has been greatly diluted over the years. Had the flight on the 25th gone wrong, it would have only added to the list of previous delays and missed promises from Branson.

Branson had been previously set to start taking customers in 2021, but due to veering off his established course, he has been forced back into testing.