How's the view?

Virgin Galactic: 10 images recap the voyage to the edge of space

Virgin Galactic


You may have an unexpected new choice of destination for your next summer vacation — assuming you have a few hundred thousand dollars to spend.

-/AFP/Getty Images

On Sunday, July 11, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson was on board for a test flight of the company’s SpaceShipTwo, accompanied by three employees and two pilots.

Dubbed VSS Unity, the space plane completed three previous test flights. This was the first flight with a full crew.
Richard Baker/Corbis News/Getty Images


#1: Branson’s 90-minute flight took off from Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America in New Mexico. With a global livestream and a performance from singer Khalid, the atmosphere was far from a typical spacecraft launch.


#2: The plane itself is equally unconventional. Unity lifted off attached to a custom high-altitude WhiteKnightTwo aircraft called VMS Eve.

#3: At 8.5 miles up, Unity detached from Eve, firing its own engine to propel its crew at Mach 3 toward space.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

#4: At the highest point in the flight, Unity’s crew had a few minutes to experience weightlessness, and for Branson to deliver a message to viewers.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

#5: Here’s Branson’s message from space.

Virgin Galactic

David Lienemann/Getty Images News/Getty Images

#6: Unity and its crew topped out just past 53 miles above sea level, which led to some squabbling over whether it really reached space.


Though NASA and the FAA consider space to start at 50 miles above sea level, not everyone agrees.


Internationally, the border of space is recognized as the Kármán line — the point, 62 miles above Earth, where the atmosphere is too thin for aircraft to fly using an aerodynamic lift.

Richard Baker/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

That distinction is especially important since Virgin Galactic isn’t the only company offering trips to the final frontier.

The Jeff Bezos-founded Blue Origin is also looking to send ultra-rich clients to space in the near future. The company pointed out in a tweet that its craft will fly above the Kármán line.

Blue Origin
Bezos is set to fly to space aboard a Blue Origin ship on July 20...

... meaning Branson beat him to the punch by nine days, despite insisting that they’re not competing in a billionaire space race.

The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Virgin Galactic

#7: Also aboard Unity were Virgin Galactic’s vice president of government affairs and research operations, Sirisha Bandla; lead flight operations engineer, Colin Bennet; and chief astronaut instructor, Beth Moses.

Virgin Galactic

#8: Unity was piloted by astronauts Dave Mackay and Miachel Masucci.


#9: Along with securing bragging rights for Branson, the trip marked SpaceShipTwo’s first fully crewed flight to space, a milestone in the burgeoning space tourism industry.

#10: Virgin Galactic’s spaceships, like the one pictured here, are on schedule to take tourists to space by 2022.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Read more stories on space here.

Thanks for reading,
head home for more!