CALIFORNIA

BBC, RO

What looks like being the world’s first commercial space plane has just passed another technical milestone.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has just flown faster and higher than ever before on its journey to take ordinary, fare-paying customers 70 miles above the earth.

The first passengers should be floating around in zero gravity in around a year’s time.  The ultimate goal for Virgin Galactic and its future commercial space flier is to carry human passengers to the edge of space. So far, 580 people have dished out more than $70 million total to be among the first to experience a few moments of weightlessness as they soar 359,040 feet above Earth, during which time they can see the curvature of the Earth as well as the blackness of space.

The successful test flights have so far kept Virgin Galactic on track to make the commercial spaceflight goal a reality. If the company can maintain its successfulness, it will become the world’s first viable commercial spaceline when it goes live.

Once it does begin carrying humans to the edge of space, the VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve – the spaceships now being designed for the commercial program – would likely make no less than 100 scheduled flights as the ships are constructed to only take six passengers at a time into the far reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.

To put this into perspective, the International Space Station flies about 220 miles above Earth, or about three times higher than what Virgin’s ships will travel. Felix Baumgartner, who last year broke the record for the world’s highest free-fall, jumped out of his capsule at nearly 128,000 feet – nearly three times lower than where Virgin will be traveling.