Manned space travel is usually associated with NASA or other government-funded agencies but that may not be the case for much longer thanks to Virgin Galactic. Already, on this test, the rocket carried a mannequin named Annie as a stand-in passenger, as well as four research experiments for NASA.
"We are pleased that Virgin Galactic is among the many pioneers of space flight helping write a new chapter in aerospace history".
Branson isn't alone in the space tourism business: Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin is planning to take space tourists on trips, using the more traditional method of a capsule atop a rocket that blasts off from a launch pad. The flight did not, however, breach the 100km Karman Line, a perimeter that many organisations use to resolve debates about where exactly space begins and ends.
He predicted the price would go up initially, to absorb the cost of developing space travel, before dropping as the number of craft increased.
Virgin Galactic's first two astronauts, Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow, celebrate after one employee proposes in front of the crowd.
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Both Parrish and McGowan work for The Spaceship Company, the Virgin Galactic sister company that manufactured SpaceShipTwo. Branson has said Virgin's first commercial space trip with him onboard would happen "in months and not years". It burned for a total of 60 seconds and drove the vehicle directly upward at almost three times the speed of sound.
"Today we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space to change the world for good". The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation regulates, facilitates and promotes the commercial space launch industry and licensed today's flight.
Space tourism could become in a reality as early as 2020.
"The whole team here - their perseverance - whether it's the test pilots who are incredibly courageous people, who are testing things that can't be tested on the ground that you can only find out in flight, right through to the massive team that have created a spaceship that can now - once it's finished the test programme - start to go safely into space for myself and thousands of other people like me". The spacecraft surpassed the 50-mile mark, which is what NASA and the United States Air Force recognize as the beginning of space. "There have been two people before that have flown winged spacecraft to space and back". Three technicians were killed in 2007 by an explosion while testing a propellant system at Scaled Composites LLC, which built SpaceShipOne and was building the first SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic.
Stucky, beaming from an outdoor stage near the runway after returning from the test flight, said he'd been waiting for the moment "for decades". "We're going to need another White Knight to be built", he said, referring to the mothercraft that carries the passenger vehicle high enough for it to be launched into space.
Virgin Galactic says about 600 people have reserved tickets, priced between $200,000 and $250,000, to ride aboard its supersonic plane.