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.