Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic test flight presses for space

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Classified - By Chris­tian Daven­port and Aaron Gregg

Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic flew its space plane near the edge of space Fri­day morn­ing on its quest to even­tu­ally fly pay­ing pas­sen­gers there, but it was un­clear whether the craft ac­tu­ally reached space.

The flight came two months after Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic hit an al­ti­tude of 51.4 miles, reach­ing space for the first time, a his­toric mile­stone for which its pi­lots were awarded as­tro­naut wings by the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Fri­day’s flight reached a height of at least 240,000 feet, or 45.4 miles, which does not meet the FAA’s def­i­ni­tion of space.

How­ever the com­pany did not an­nounce the flight’s top al­ti­tude.

The launch came as the com­pany looked to fur­ther test the outer lim­its of the space plane be­fore it starts fly­ing the hun­dreds of tourists who have signed up to pay as much as $250,000 a ticket.

Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic has yet to hit what’s known as the Kar­man line, the 62-mile bound­ary that many con­sider to be the edge of space. In com­ments this week, Jeff Be­zos, whose Blue Ori­gin space ven­ture also in­tends to fly tourists on sub­or­bital trips to space took a swipe at his com­peti­tor.

Be­zos owns The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Blue Ori­gin, which has not an­nounced how much it would charge its pas­sen­gers, would fly above 62 miles, he said, “be­cause we didn’t want there to be any as­ter­isks next to your name about whether you’re an as­tro­naut or not.”

Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic of­fi­cials have pointed to the fact that the FAA and other fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies have de­fined space as be­gin­ning at 50 miles.

MATT HART­MAN/AP

Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic’s flight Fri­day reached a height of at least 240,000 feet, or 45.4 miles.

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