Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, has broken several records during its second flight into space, as well carrying three crew for the first time. The supersonic, rocket-powered space flight over Mojave, California, carried two test pilots and a mission specialist in reaching an altitude of 295,007 ft (89,918 m) and a top speed of Mach 3.04 (2,255 mph, 3,629 km/h) – the highest speed and altitude the craft has reached in any of its five powered test flights.
Today's test flight came on the heels of VSS Unity's first flight into space in December last year. The spaceplane was lifted into the air while linked to the twin-hulled mothership before being dropped and firing its hybrid rocket motor, sending Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, co-pilot Michael "Sooch" Masucci, and Virgin Galactic Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses on a suborbital trajectory. While neither of these flights reached the official limit of space of 62 mi (100 km), they are still high enough to earn the crew astronaut wings, which are awarded for reaching an altitude of 50 miles (80 km) in either an orbital spacecraft or a suborbital spaceplane.
The flight involved a number of records according to Virgin Galactic. Moses became not only the 571st person to fly in space, but the first non-pilot and the first woman on a commercial spacecraft, as well as the first person to float free without restraints aboard a commercial spacecraft. In addition, Mackay became the first Scottish-born astronaut in history.
"Beth, Sooch and I just enjoyed a pretty amazing flight which was beyond anything any of us has ever experienced," said Mackay. "It was thrilling yet smooth and nicely controlled throughout with a view at the top, of the Earth from space, which exceeded all our expectations. I am incredibly proud of my crew and of the amazing teams at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company for providing a vehicle and an operation which means we can fly confidently and safely. For the three of us today this was the fulfillment of lifelong ambitions, but paradoxically is also just the beginning of an adventure which we can't wait to share with thousands of others."
Source: Virgin Galactic
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