Yesterday over the Mojave Desert, Virgin Galactic conducted the first test flight for it’s rocket powered space plane VSS Unity, since a first 2014 test tragically ended in a mid-flight breakup that killed the pilots.
The test plane was a prototype of what Virgin hopes will eventually develop into a reliable form of of a future space tourism industry that will take commercial passengers to the lower reaches of space (around 16 miles up) before returning to Earth.
Functionally, the plane is towed by a larger plane to 46,500 feet and then released. Once released, the Unity’s rocket kicks in and propels the craft to the outer reaches of the atmosphere.
This is still a long way from being a commercially viable means of transportation, but after seeing these views it’s hard to believe people won’t be lining up around the block once it’s ready to go.