The Strategist

Branson's Virgin Galactic tests spaceship with people on board for the first time in two years

05/24/2021 - 03:53

Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has conducted its first test launch of its spacecraft with people on board since early 2019. The company is already offering prospective tourists the chance to book a trip to space for $250,000.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has tested the VSS Unity spacecraft, launching it into space and returning it to Earth. The company announced this on Twitter.

Unity and the VMS Eve launch vehicle were launched from Spaceport America in the US state of New Mexico. The test tasks included both testing Unity's control systems and, for example, conducting experiments for the US agency's NASA Flight Opportunities programme. 

The current launch marks the third time when Unity sets off to space with a crew on board, notes. The previous two launches were conducted in December 2018 and February 2019. Virgin had already attempted a third flight in December 2020, but Unity's engine failed to start properly then. On the news that the company managed to fix the problem and is planning a new launch, its shares rose more than 20% on 20 May.

Virgin Galactic plans to use its ships for space tourism. About 600 people have booked tickets for future flights, paying between $200,000 and $250,000 for them, CNBC notes.