Branson 'wins space race' after successful Virgin Galactic flight

Virgin Galactic advances space tourism with successful test

Virgin Galactic could soon reach space for the first time

Virgin Galactic became the first commercial craft to reach the edge of space in an historic test flight on Thursday which could move the dream of space tourism closer to a reality. The company has its sights set on the small satellite industry, identifying a need that's not now being met by other launch providers, and its business model centers on proving low-priced access to space for existing companies, students, entrereneurs, and other types hoping to use space as part of their research or business endeavors.

VSS Unity, a SpaceShipTwo-class space plane, takes in the view.

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Congratulations to Astronauts Stucky and Sturckow, Sir Richard Branson and the entire Virgin Galactic/SpaceShip Company (and Scaled Composites) for all their hard work in getting this far this fast, and now-"Let's go to Space!"

The spaceship reentered the atmosphere at 2.5 times the speed of sound and landed safely a few minutes later.

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Virgin Galactic's chief, British billionaire Richard Branson, watched the flight from the ground. In addition to the pilots, the spaceship carried four NASA research payloads and a mannequin named Annie.

Sir Richard Branson is now very near his goal of space tourism flights "by the end of this year" which may not happen quite that fast, but appears very near after today's successful flight. Famous people including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and music star Justin Bieber are among them.

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Becoming a passenger on one of VSS Unity's future flights doesn't come cheap, the price tag being $250,000 per 90-minute flight. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos launched Blue Origin, which also plans to take space tourists on suborbital trips. Hai Do was the editor.

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