GALACTIC MILESTONE: Richard Branson celebrates Virgin's historic first human spaceflight


"This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration".

Today we completed our first revenue-generating flight and created two new astronauts - well, one of these was an astronaut nevertheless, you know what After all already.

"We will soon start on the fourth and the fifth spaceships".

Musk, the billionaire CEO of electric carmaker Tesla Inc, said the Big Falcon Rocket could conduct its first orbital flights in two to three years as part of his grand plan to shuttle passengers to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to Mars. The company's most recent successful space flight is a good indication that space tourism is now just around the corner. Branson has said Virgin's first commercial space trip with him onboard would happen "in months and not years".

The jet will climb to an altitude near 43,000 feet and then release Virgin Space Ship Unity. After reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet, Unity was released and the crew used a 60-second burn to push the spacecraft to a speed of Mach 2.9, almost three times the speed of sound.

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"We made it to space", Enrico Palermo, president of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's manufacturing partner, told a crowd of cheering spectators gathered at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) is the global body that determines aviation and space records. The astronaut designation is in keeping with USA military and NASA pilots who when they fly above 80 kilometers are reclassified as astronauts. A number of X-15 pilots were awarded astronaut wings for their flights in the 1960s for crossing that threshold.

After reaching a certain altitude, higher than 13,100 metres, it fired its rocket motors for 60 seconds and made it to a peak height, or apogee, of 82.7 kilometres. The flight on December 13 was Virgin Galactic's longest rocket-powered flight ever. The de facto boundary between LEO and the Earth's upper atmosphere is called the Karman Line.

"In theory, once this 100 km line is crossed, the atmosphere becomes too thin to provide enough lift for conventional aircraft to maintain flight", the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains, noting that many worldwide organizations use the Karman Line as their own benchmark. NASA relies on Russian Federation to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). They are entirely different from SS2 since they must go into and return from orbit, which is much more hard than a suborbital flight.

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman operate cargo ships that launch from the United States, toting supplies and food to the space station, but not people.

Update: This article was updated to add that NASA's decision to count Soyuz MS-10 as a spaceflight for Hague and Ovchinin was independent of the altitude reached.