The era of space tourism is drawing closer. Virgin Galactic, on its fifth supersonic, rocket- powered test flight, successfully sent passenger Beth Moses, the company’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, to the edge of space, the first non-pilot to ever fly on a commercial aircraft. The flight marks the second time the company has reached the landmark height.
According to the standards set by the U.S. military and NASA, the crew of three becomes the 569th to 571st people to enter space, with Moses also becoming the first woman to do so on a commercial spaceflight.
SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor burn from today’s space flight ? pic.twitter.com/SC4hJSt33Z
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) February 22, 2019
Of course the boundaries of space differ, depending on who’s defining space. Virgin Galactic considers space to begin at a 50-mile (80.5-kilometer) altitude, the height at which NASA and the U.S military present astronaut wings. Other organizations, including the governing body astronautic records Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FIA), consider the 100-kilometer high Kármán Line, an imagined border, to be where space begins. Today’s flight went 89.9 kilometers, or 55.8 miles, high.
Virgin Galactic’s model of spaceflight is radically different than NASA, China, SpaceX, or Blue Origin. Today’s SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity, is more like a spaceplane than a classic rocket. Launching from Mojave, California, a quadjet cargo aircraft named WhiteKnightTwo carried Unity some 50,000 feet into the sky before separation. Unity’s rocket motor was then able to propel the craft to Mach 3.04.