Virgin Galactic ‘spaceplane’ smashes altitude record in latest test flight

National News
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Virgin Galactic completed the third rocket-powered test flight of its VSS Unity spaceplane over California’s Mojave Desert on Thursday, bringing billionaire Richard Branson’s space tourism company a step closer to taking its first customers into space.

After being released from under the wing of its carrier plane at 46,500 feet, VSS Unity fired its rocket motor for 42 seconds to propel itself and its two pilots to a speed of Mach 2.47, or almost two-and-a-half times the speed of sound, Virgin Galactic said in a blog post.

The sleek craft reached an altitude of 170,800 feet (32.3 miles) — more than halfway to the Kármán line that marks the boundary between the upper atmosphere and outer space — before descending and landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

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