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Billionaire Richard Branson creates history, completes trip to edge of space

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Google Oneindia News

United States, July 11: Billionaire Richard Branson created history on Sunday as he soared more than 50 miles above the New Mexico desert aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane and safely returned in the vehicle's first fully crewed test flight to space.

Representational Image

The flight took off at around 8:40 am Mountain Time (1440 GMT) and will ascend for around an hour to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers).

The mothership will then drop a rocket-powered spaceplane called VSS Unity, which will ignite its engine and ascend at Mach 3 beyond 50 miles (80 kilometers) of altitude, wBillionaire Richard Branson took off Sunday from a base in New Mexico aboard a test flight to space, a milestone for the company he founded in 2004 as it prepares to debut tourism trips next year.hich marks the boundary of space according to the United States.

The spaceplane is carrying two pilots and four passengers, including Branson.

The London-born founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, who turns 71 in a week, wasn''t supposed to fly until later this summer. But he assigned himself to an earlier flight after fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos announced plans to ride his own rocket ship into space from Texas on July 20.

Virgin Galactic doesn''t expect to start flying customers before next year. Bezos'' Blue Origin has yet to open ticket sales or even announce prices, but late last week boasted via Twitter that it would take clients higher and offer bigger windows.

Unlike Blue Origin and Musk''s SpaceX, which launch capsules atop rockets, Virgin Galactic uses a twin-fuselage aircraft to get its rocket ship aloft. The space plane is then released from the mother ship at about 8 miles (13 km) up, and fires its engine to streak straight to space. Maximum altitude is roughly 55 miles (70 km), with three to four minutes of weightlessness provided.

The rocket plane then glides to a runway landing at Virgin''s Spaceport America base.

Virgin Galactic made three previous test flights into space with a crew.

with PTI inputs

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