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Virgin test flight blasts to edge of space

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 22, 2019 - Duration: 00:53s

Virgin test flight blasts to edge of space

A Virgin Galactic rocket plane on Friday soared to the edge of space with a test passenger successfully for the first time, nudging British billionaire Richard Branson’s company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.

Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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Virgin test flight blasts to edge of space

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) A Virgin Galactic rocket plane on Friday soared to the edge of space with a test passenger for the first time, nudging British billionaire Richard Branson's company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.

Virgin Galactic's chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, who will train future space tourists, joined pilots onboard SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity to evaluate the customer experience and cabin.

"There's a saying in aviation that the pilots have the best seat in the house, with the view up there.

But today, I'm not sure," pilot David Mackay said after the flight, referring to what Moses could see and do.

The WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane took off soon after 8 a.m.

Local time (11 a.m.

ET) from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

It released the SpaceShipTwo passenger craft at an altitude of about 44,000 feet and then the spaceship was catapulted to 55 miles above Earth.

The reusable SpaceShipTwo craft previously flew to an altitude of more than 51 miles in December 2018, marking the first U.S. commercial human flight beyond the atmosphere since the end of America's shuttle program in 2011.

Beth Moses called it an "indescribable ride," and said "Richard, you're going to love it." Branson is racing against competitors such as Blue Origin, the space business of Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk's SpaceX to bring tourists into space.

Branson has said he plans to be the first passenger on SpaceShipTwo's first commercial flight in mid-2019.

More than 600 people from 58 countries, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber, have paid or put down deposits to fly on one of Virgin's suborbital flights.

Some of Virgin Galactic's ticket holders have been waiting over 14 years for their trip.

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