Aug 19, 2018 | Updated: 01:42 PM EDT

Virgin Galactic First Test Flight Launch In 2017 May Prove Pivotal For Future Space Explorations

Apr 10, 2017 01:14 AM EDT

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Sir Richard Branson is believed to be taking a big leap in space travel by launching Virgin Galactic's first suborbital space flight by the end of this year. He is determined to see this dream project succeed.

To set a perfect example to the world, Branson has volunteered to be one of the first passengers on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo along with a few of his family members. The spaceship is set to lift off later this year. Designed to accommodate only six passengers, its price per seat is a whopping $250,000.

The launch will be in two stages. In the first stage, SpaceShipTwo will ride on a plane called WhiteKnightTwo to an altitude of almost 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) and get released at that level. In the second stage, the spaceship will accelerate to suborbital space under its own rocket power.

In the past, in preparation for this feat, Virgin Galactic's first SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Enterprise, was made to undergo rocket-powered test flights four times in the Earth's atmosphere. However, the project received a setback of sorts when on the last test flight on Oct. 31, 2014, the Enterprise broke apart due to the early deployment of its "feathering" descent system, killing the co-pilot and seriously injuring the pilot.

Undaunted by this accident, Virgin Galactic, under Branson, bounced back into contention and regrouped. In February 2016, it disclosed its second SpaceShipTwo, called VSS Unity.

VSS Unity has passed its unpowered "glide flights" performances with flying colors and is now poised to begin the rocket-powered phase, which according to Branson is, "... going really well ...." Branson has lauded his brave test pilots, who are pushing themselves to the limit to ensure the company's 12 years of hard work come to fruition.

Virgin Galactic, along with SpaceX, are two privately-owned companies that are contributing immensely to space research by putting the man in space.

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