New Heights

Virgin Galactic's supersonic space plane, the VSS Unity, took off on its fifth test flight today. Mothership WhiteKnightTwo released the suborbital space plane at around 44,000 feet — and VSS Unity reached a new maximum altitude of 55.85 miles (89.9km.)

The second generation SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, reached an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.7  km) during its fourth test flight in December 2018. This time, the space plane traveled with a much heavier payload — close to full commercial weight — and a third crew member, Beth Moses, the first woman to enter space on a commercial US spacecraft.

Expanding the Envelope

"Although we passed a major milestone in December, we still have a way to go in testing the many factors that can affect a flight," reads a press release. "So, for this flight, we will be expanding the envelope to gather new and vital data essential to future tests and operations, including vehicle center of gravity."

Virgin Galactic is developing the SpaceShipTwo platform to be part of its space tourism fleet, giving those who can afford a ticket — $250,000 isn't cheap — a taste of micro-gravity.

But it's not quite a ride to the International Space Station — that'd require it to fly to more than four times its current maximum altitude.

READ MORE: SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, Prepares For Fifth Supersonic Powered Test Flight [Virgin Galactic]

More on SpaceShipTwo: Did Virgin Galactic’s Spaceplane Reach Space? Depends Who You Ask

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