Virgin Galactic set to send its SpaceShipTwo tourism rocket

Virgin Galactic set to send its SpaceShipTwo tourism rocket
Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic will send people to space by Christmas
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Richard Branson made a bold claim that his Virgin Galactic will send passengers to space by Christmas.
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Virgin Galactic is set to send its tourism rocket to the edge of space during a major test flight on Thursday.
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"Our SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, is entering the next stage of testing," explains Virgin Galactic, on its website. "During this phase of the flight program, we will be expanding the envelope for height, air speed, loads,
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and thermal heating. We also plan to burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach space for the first time. "
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If successful, the test will be a major step toward the long-delayed dream of commercial space tourism.
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BRANSON SAYS VIRGIN GALACTIC WILL SEND PEOPLE TO SPACE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
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Two pilots will take Virgin Space Ship Unity high above California's Mojave Desert Thursday. CEO George Whitesides said that Wednesday they will try to exceed a height
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of 50 miles, which is the Virgin of Galactic Whiteside said that the standard used by the U.S. Air Force and other US agencies

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That differs from a long-held view that places the boundary at 62 miles. But Whitesides cited new research that favors the lower altitude and said that as a U.S. Company will use the U.S. standard.

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Virgin Galactic tweeted that SpaceShipTwo will be bearing NASA payloads during the test, putting the spacecraft off to an approximate commercial weight

Reaching the Edge of Space for a major milestone for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic A successful test will also

 demonstrate significant progress toward the start of commercial flights that were more than a decade ago. Virgin Galactic's development of its spaceship took far longer than expected and endured a

setback when the first experimental craft breaks apart during a 2014 test flight, killing the co-pilot.

EXPERTS: VIRGIN GALACTIC CRASH WILL CHANGE THE FACE OF SPACE TOURISM

"It's a day that we've been waiting for a long time," Whitesides said.

The spaceship is not launched from the ground but is carried on a special plane to an altitude of around 50,000 feet. It then detaches from the plane, ignites its rocket

 engine and climbs. The rocket is shut down and the craft coasts to the top of its climb - and then begins a descent slowed and stabilized by unique "feathering"

 technology. The twin tails temporarily rotate upward to increase drag, then return to a normal flying configuration before the craft glides to a landing on a runway.

Fox News' Christopher Carbone and The Associated Press

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