This -- namely commercial flights for tourists in suborbital space -- is actually going to happen in the next couple of years. One small step for man, and one giant leap for Richard Branson, and competitors.
Virgin Galactic says it successfully conducted a second rocket-powered, supersonic test flight of the passenger spaceship it is developing.
The craft called SpaceShipTwo reached an altitude of 69,000 feet (21,030 meters) over California early Thursday after it was dropped from a carrier aircraft and its rocket was ignited for a 20-second burn.
Two pilots and a flight test engineer were aboard as the craft reached a maximum speed of Mach 1.43, then glided to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port.
Both the altitude and speed exceeded marks set during the first rocket-powered flight last April.
Virgin Galactic plans to take paying passengers on suborbital flights that briefly enter space. The commercial spaceline is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS.
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Photo credit: This was the first test on April 29, 2013. At that time, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo fires its rockets over Mojave, Calif. after it was dropped from its "mothership," WhiteKnightTwo. Mark Greenberg / Virgin Galactic