Virgin Galactic: Richard Branson launches space flight

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Sir Richard Branson, the business magnate behind the Virgin empire, became the second-oldest person to fly into space today (July 11). Launching from Virgin Galactic’s base of operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico, Sir Richard, 70, and a crew of three flight specialists soared to an altitude above 50 miles. The Virgin Galactic crew has, therefore, earned its astronaut wings as it surpassed the American standard for spaceflight.

The mission, officially dubbed Unity 22, blasted off from New Mexico at about 3.40pm BST – 100 minutes after originally intended.

Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft, the VSS Unity, was first lofted into space by another aircraft.

After reaching an altitude of about 45,000ft the spacecraft disengaged and its rocket motor kicked in.

With a roar of fire, Unity blasted off into suborbital space.

Virgin Galactic has only been to space on three occasions prior, but never with a full crew.

VSS Unity is equipped to carry up to six people at once but today’s flight only featured a crew of four.

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