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December 14, 2018

Watch: Spectacular video of Virgin Galactic space flight

By Robert Scammell

Yesterday Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic test flight successfully flew to the edge of space, marking a major milestone in the commercial space race.

It is the first time VSS Unity, a SpaceShipTwo-class suborbital rocket-powered space plane, surpassed the 80km altitude at which NASA awards astronaut wings.

According to Virgin Galactic, the space plane reached a maximum height of 82.7km, giving pilots Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and C.J Stuckrow spectacular views of the curvature of Earth.

Jet-powered aircraft WhiteKnightTwo acted as a mothership, carrying VSS Unity to an altitude of more than 43,000ft before releasing it.

Pilots Stucky and Stuckrow then ignited VSS Unity’s rocket for 60 seconds, propelling it to a top speed of Mach 2.9 – nearly three times the speed of sound.

There is no agreed international law defining the edge of space, but 100km above sea level commonly represents the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. While VSS Unity did not pass this, previous Virgin Galactic model SpaceShipOne surpassed this in 2004.

It is a major success for Virgin Galactic after its previous SpaceShipTwo plane was destroyed during a test flight in 2014, resulting in the death of one of the craft’s two pilots.

You can watch the spectacular video of Virgin Galactic’s space flight below.

 Video of Virgin Galactic space flight

Video of Virgin Galactic space flight take off

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo took off from the Mojave Desert in California yesterday at 10am EST.

Watch SpaceShipTwo perform a victory roll

Watch SpaceShipTwo return to Earth after the successful space flight

Pilots Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and C.J Stuckrow and Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson

SpaceShipTwo also carried payloads for NASA experiments, which put the spaceship close to the full weight it would be operating at during commercial flights.

The spacecraft is fully reusable, with WhiteKnightTwo having now flown a total of 261 times and SpaceShipTwo 15 times.

Virgin Galactic says it has sold hundreds of tickets to customers priced at $250,000 a pop, but the company plans to carry out more testing before commercial flights take place.

Competitors SpaceX and Blue Origin have both sent rockets further into space, albeit without human passengers.

Read more: Commercial space race: How close are Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin to taking tourists to space?

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