British billionaire Richard Branson flew into space with his spaceship - and returned successfully. The "VSS Unity" rose according to Branson's company Virgin Galactic after the start in the US state New Mexico to an altitude of more than 80 kilometers and plunged into weightlessness.
The 70-year-old set out on Sunday with two astronauts and three astronauts. The spaceship was first brought under a mother plane to an altitude of about 14 kilometers and then set down. The engine then fired and the spacecraft accelerated during a steep ascent to more than three times the speed of sound - over 3500 kilometers per hour. TV footage showed the sky turning from blue to black as Branson and his crew left the atmosphere.
The goal of Branson - and also of the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla boss Elon Musk - is to get into the space tourism business. But Branson's All-Trip is also a successful PR coup against his competitor Bezos: The richest man in the world had advertised his flight into space on July 20 at great expense in the past few weeks - then Branson came and announced that he was nine Days early. The live coverage of the flight by Virgin Galactic gave the impression of an advertising event, in which even the off-road vehicles used for the way to the spaceship were staged.
However, it is disputed among experts whether Branson was actually in space: The International Aviation Association (FAI) and many other experts see 100 kilometers above the Earth as a border to space, but there is no binding international regulation. For example, soldiers in the US Air Force received the designation astronaut, even though they had only flown to an altitude of 50 miles (80,5 kilometers). For comparison: the international space station ISS is about 400 kilometers above the earth's surface.
The 18-meter-long Unity spaceplane offers space for two pilots and six passengers, and from 2022 it should take tourists into space. The extremely rich adventurer is by no means the first tourist in weightlessness, but he wants to make commercial space flights socially acceptable with Virgin Galactic - just like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Branson posed with the Tesla boss on a Twitter photo on Sunday morning and wrote: “A great day lies ahead of us. Great to start the morning with a friend. I feel good, excited, ready. "
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' space company, had already announced a manned flight with the New Shepard rocket in May. The 57-year-old wants to take his brother and an 82-year-old former US pilot on their maiden flight into space on July 20. A few weeks ago, another seat was auctioned for $ 28 million to a previously unknown person.