Virgin Galactic sends astronauts briefly into space

Virgin Galactic has successfully completed its second fully-crewed flight, sending astronauts briefly into space.

The launch: The rocket plane “Unity” was released from a carrier aircraft and soared up to 54.2 miles above Earth in New Mexico desert, enough for a brief weightless experience.
* This was the company’s first flight in nearly two years, with a crew comprised solely of Virgin Galactic employees.

Background: Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s company, uses rocket-powered planes to reach the edge of the atmosphere, rather than rocket-launched space capsules like other companies.
* The program has faced challenges, such as a pilot’s death in a 2014 test flight and a brief grounding by the FAA in 2021 for deviating from its scheduled flight path.

Financial struggles: The company’s stock price has decreased in the past year, and its sister company, Virgin Orbit, declared bankruptcy earlier this spring.
* Virgin Galactic plans to begin regular commercial operations in June.

View original article on NPR

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