Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceline company owned by Richard Branson, has announced that its VSS Unity spaceplane successfully completed its fastest glide flight to date.
Branson took to LinkedIn to congratulate the Virgin Galactic pilots and team Mark Stucky, Mike Masucci, along with VMS Eve crew members CJ Sturckow, Kelly Latimer, and Richard Starke.
"Congratulations to @VirginGalactic pilots and the team for the fastest glide flight to date at Mach 0.9 from 50,000 feet."
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity Fastest Glide Flight
Once at 50,000 feet, the VSS Unity spaceplane is released from mothership VMS Eve and dropped, reaching the maximum airspeed of Mach 0.9. Virgin Galactic says this is the fastest speed the VSS Unity can achieve before "the rocket motor ignites."
This marks the 11th flight for Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo and the 242nd for VMS Eve, Virgin Galactic said on its Twitter account. The last flight test was completed in August 2017.
Virgin Galactic's original SpaceShipTwo spaceplane crashed during a flight test over the Mojave Desert in October 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other pilot.
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity Named By Professor Stephen Hawking
Two years later, Virgin Galactic introduced its newly completed SpaceShipTwo. Called the VSS Unity, the new spaceplane was named by Professor Stephen Hawking.
"I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship," said Hawking.
Branson invited Professor Hawking to go to space on a Virgin Galactic flight last year.
"And I can tell you what will make me happy, to travel in space. I thought no one would take me but Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic, and I said yes immediately."
Commercial Spaceplane Into Space By Late 2018
Branson isn't the only one who has dreams to go to space. To date, Virgin has sold more than 800 tickets, each costing around $250,000. There are already a lot of celebrities, such as Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have signed up for tickets to space.
If other flight tests for VSS Unity are just as successful, Branson could reach his dream of sending a commercial spaceplane into space by late 2018.
"I still have to pinch myself every time Virgin Galactic does a test flight," said Branson. When Branson first founded Virgin, he admits that he never imagined going into space.
"I'm so proud of how far we've come and I'm sure the team are busy analysing all the results of the test to see what comes next."
Here's to making dreams happen in 2018.