Update (1140ET): VSS Unity has touched down at Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
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Update (1125ET): Mothership Eve has dropped VSS Unity at around 50,000 feet. VSS Unity has now ignited its rocket-powered engines and is heading to outer space.
The spacecraft is now Mach 3 50 seconds into flight.
The spacecraft has reached 282,000 feet.
The U.S. military and NASA define space as about 50 miles altitude or about 264,000 feet - the spacecraft reached 282,000 feet and was in space for about a minute.
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Update (1104ET): Once the carrier plane VMS Eve, the mothership for SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, reaches an altitude of about 50,000 feet, it will drop the VSS Unity that will use its rocket-powered engines to reach outer space.
Flightradar24 data shows the VMS Eve and VSS Unity are around 42,000 feet.
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Update (1045ET): According to Virgin Galactic's live feed, Unity22 has taken off for a high-altitude plane launch to the edge of space with a full crew, including billionaire co-founder Richard Branson.
Track Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity live via Flightradar24.
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Virgin Galactic is preparing to fly billionaire co-founder Richard Branson to space on the first crewed spaceflight above New Mexico on Sunday morning, possibly beating fellow billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Virgin Galactic tweeted "launch and live stream" of the Company's VSS Unity spaceship will begin around 1030 ET from the state's private Spaceport America.
"Unity 22" mission will be the twenty-second flight test of their spacecraft, and the company's fourth crewed spaceflight. It will also be the first to carry a full crew.
The announcement comes a few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration approved Virgin Galactic to fly customers to space.
"After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good," Branson said in a statement earlier this month. "I'm honored to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin."
The Company, whose intentions are to become a leader in space tourism, will use the upcoming flight to focus on cabin and customer experience objectives, including:
- Evaluating the commercial customer cabin with a full crew, including the cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience, and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers — all to ensure every moment of the astronaut's journey maximizes the wonder and awe created by space travel
- Demonstrating the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments
- Confirming the training program at Spaceport America supports the spaceflight experience
That crew will include two pilots and four mission specialists, including Branson. The Company said on the flight Branson will be "testing the private astronaut experience.
If successful, Branson's trip to space this morning would beat Bezos' planned trip to space on July 20 aboard a rocket and capsule via his own Company called Blue Origin.
Watch Live: Virgin Galactic Unity 22 Spaceflight Livestream