USA military and NASA pilots who have flown above 80 kilometers are considered to be astronauts.
In the process, Stucky and Sturckow became Virgin Galactic's first astronauts.
Soon, the vehicle pointed nearly straight up, as it streaked through the same skies over the California desert where Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in 1947. It reached a speed of Mach 2.9 before returning to land at Mojave Air & Space Port.
"Tears of relief as well".
On their way back down, the pilots celebrated their success with a victory roll, watching the Earth spin below them as they sped back to the ground. We had tons of extra propellant.
As VSS Unity coasted upwards through the black sky and into space, Virgin Galactic Mission Control confirmed the news and congratulated the two astronaut pilots: "Unity, Welcome to Space".
A rocket ship set to launch from California's Mojave Desert could herald a giant step toward the long-awaited dream of space tourism for Virgin Galactic.
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VSS Unity's peak altitude of 51.4 miles is similar to what Virgin Galactic has planned for commercial flights.
Several private companies in the United States have announced plans to offer trips to space.
The first crew tests of SpaceX and Boeing's astronaut capsules are expected next year. CSF President Eric Stallmer said the "commercial space industry will create unprecedented opportunities for space tourism and democratize space for all". Despite the long odds, Branson started his quest to open space to the masses with his typical bravado, vowing the company would soon be taking tourists by the hundreds on awe-inspiring jaunts to the cosmos.
As federal investigators investigated the crash, Branson pondered whether to continue, ultimately vowing to press on.
Both companies are still in the testing phase.
The cost of a trip on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft has been estimated to be between $200,000 and $250,000. "Space is not cheap", he said.
When Tom Swarbrick asked Sir Branson whether he thought that he would beat Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in sending commercial passengers to space, he said that he would "claim victory as to sending the first people into space", and said that they were ahead of the game because of this. The spacecraft touched back down in Mojave about 1.5 hours after takeoff, completing the historic flight.
"Today, as I stood among a truly remarkable group of people with our eyes on the stars, we saw our biggest dream and our toughest challenge to date fulfilled", Virgin founder Richard Branson said in a statement released Thursday.
The company is mainly focused on safety as well as eventually making flights affordable in the future.