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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Supersonic flight brings Virgin Galactic closer to space tourism

•, By W.J. Hennigan
 With a sonic boom that resounded above the Mojave Desert, a rocket plane belonging to British billionaire Richard Branson's commercial space venture Virgin Galactic got one step closer to carrying tourists into space.

On Monday the company's SpaceShipTwo ignited its rocket motor in mid-flight for the first time and sped to Mach 1.2, faster than sound, reaching about 56,000 feet in altitude.

The test flight is the biggest milestone in Virgin Galactic's 8 1/2-year endeavor to be the world's first commercial space liner, which would make several trips a day carrying scores of paying customers into space for a brief journey.
"We never thought it would take this long, but it was worth the wait," Branson said in an interview. "Now that we have accomplished supersonic flight, we feel ready to take the next step. There are an awful lot of exciting things to come."

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