- Title: Timelapse shows sunny morning for Virgin Galactic launch
- Date: 11th July 2021
- Summary: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES (JULY 11, 2021) (REUTERS) TIMELAPSE SHOWING SUNRISE OVER MOUNTAINS AT SPACEPORT AMERICA (MUTE) VARIOUS OF CROWDS AT SPACEPORT AMERICA TAKING PICTURES VARIOUS OF SPACEPORT WITH SUN RISING OVER MOUNTAINS IN THE BACKGROUND
- Embargoed: 25th July 2021 14:28
- Keywords: Richard Branson STEM Spaceport America Unity Virgin Galactic education launch next generation of STEM space launch students
- Location: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES
- City: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Science,Space Exploration,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA001ELECAX3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:British billionaire Richard Branson prepared on Sunday (July 11) to climb into his Virgin Galactic passenger rocket plane and soar more than 50 miles (80 km) above the New Mexico desert in the vehicle's first fully crewed test flight to the edge of space.
Branson, one of six Virgin Galactic Holding Inc employees strapping in for the ride, has touted the flight as a precursor to a new era of space tourism, with the company he founded poised to begin commercial operations next year.
Guests in the VIP section at Spaceport America mingled and took photos of the runway while the sun rose starting around 5 a.m. local time.
Sunday's launch of the VSS Unity rocket plane will mark the company's 22nd test flight of its SpaceShipTwo system, and its fourth crewed mission beyond Earth's atmosphere. It's also the first to carry a full complement of space travelers - two pilots and four "mission specialists," Branson among them.
The planned takeoff from New Mexico's state-owned Spaceport of America, located near the New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences, was pushed back by 90 minutes due to overnight thunderstorms that kept Virgin Galactic from rolling out its rocket plane on time, the company said.
The gleaming white spaceplane was now due to be borne aloft at around 10:30 a.m. (1430 GMT) attached to the underside of a specially designed twin-fuselage carrier jet VMS Eve - named for Branson's late mother.
Separating from the mothership at an altitude of 50,000 feet, Unity's rocket engine will ignite to send the spaceplane streaking straight upward to the blackness of space some 55 miles high, where the crew will experience about 4 minutes of microgravity.
With the engine shut down near the peak of its climb, the craft will then be shifted into re-entry mode before gliding back to a runway landing at the spaceport. The entire flight, from takeoff to touchdown, should take about 90 minutes.
(Production: Julio-Cesar Chavez, Nathan Frandino)
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