Returning From Tragedy, Virgin Fires Up Space Plane
Next stop: the final frontier. The VSS Unity — named by Stephen Hawking but owned by Richard Branson — ignited its rockets and cracked the sound barrier Thursday morning. It was Virgin Galactic’s first space flight since 2014, when its original VSS Enterprise spaceship crashed, killing one of its pilots. Testing was stopped until the program could add mechanical and procedural safety measures. While Unity’s rocket fired for just 30 seconds, it was enough to propel the plane above 84,000 feet, where Branson hopes to one day carry paying passengers.