Virgin Galactic got back in the manned space launch business Saturday with the successful flight and recovery of its VSS Unity manned vehicle. The craft, carried by its jet aircraft mothership Eve, took off from Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and was released at 44,000 feet. It rocketed to an altitude of 55.45 miles before gliding to a landing back at Las Cruces, ending the first-ever manned flight into space from New Mexico. Unity was flown by pilot-in-command CJ Sturkow and Dave MacKay.

“Today’s flight showcased the inherent elegance and safety of our spaceflight system, while marking a major step forward for both Virgin Galactic and human spaceflight in New Mexico,” said CEO Michal Colglazier. “I am incredibly proud of our talented team for making the dream of private space travel a reality. We will immediately begin processing the data gained from this successful test flight, and we look forward to sharing news on our next planned milestone.” Virgin Galactic hopes to eventually carry paying passengers (about $200,000 each) to the edge of space.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. seems like forever ago, that Burt’s team and Mike Melville did the first space flight. Glad they are back at it.

  2. Now that’s gitten er dun!. Great accomplishment! Wow, what an impressive video. Hat’s off to this magnificent effort.

  3. Carrying some green chili seeds and displaying the New Mexico Zia Sun Symbol, with White Sands National Park sparkling brilliantly below, just a breathtaking video and wonderful achievement. Looking forward to continued success for Virgin and all involved. Now, where did I put that 200K…

  4. 10 years too late. VG started looking very impressive, and I was one of their biggest fans. Today, I find it hard to get excited about them. Sub-orbital tourism hasn’t much time left, since orbital spaceflight for similar or lower cost is on the horizon.
    I wish them and their customers the best.

    • So true. You have to be fleet of foot to capitalize on an idea based in evolving technology. With boost prices in free fall (well, sort of) a viable business case for short orbital excursions with a few moderately wealthy space tourists aboard is edging toward possibility.

  5. As a kid growing up fascinated with and totally apesh!t over the X-15 program, and all the preceding high-altitude & high speed research flights, today I find Virgin’s mode of achieving space flight far more interesting and exciting for a passenger than a ride in a capsule. To me it validates an expanded definition of the oft-used term “Aerospace” from “could be either, could be both” to “It IS both”, in the tradition of the X-15 and the Space Shuttle. My $.02 – not my $200k. Tailwinds and Zero-G, Virgin.

  6. As a Starship Captain, born 500 years too soon, LOL, I am so excited about all this. Human ingenuity and PRIVATE American enterprise getting it done. I full expect Musk to have a colony on Mars before the decade is out.

  7. Released at 44,000 feet. It rocketed to an altitude of 55.45 miles – The crew are not wearing space suites.
    From a flight test – safety standpoint, a problem with pressurization could result in LOS from the crew and the vehicle. I hope the next flights will be uneventful – but even turbojet aircraft experience cabin pressurization problems requiring a rapid decent. Anyone else concerned about crew safety or am I missing something?