After months of delay, Virgin Galactic successfully completed its rocket-powered test flight, bringing the company a step closer in its mission to launch commercial spaceflight and space tourism. Virgin’s VSS Unity reached an altitude of over 44,000 before safely returning its two pilots Kelly Latimer and Michael Masucci, back to Spaceport America in New Mexico. This flight marked the first human spaceflight out of New Mexico, making it the 3rd US state to launch humans into space.

Initially scheduled for December 2020, this test was the first of 4 spaceflights Virgin Galactic has planned for 2021. The second flight is expected to have 6 passengers, the third is scheduled to fly Virgin founder Richard Branson, and the fourth will be a commercial flight generating $2M in revenue.

Zoom In: Virgin Galactic has faced several setbacks in the race to commercialize space tourism, including a fatal crash and several months of delays due to technical and weather problems. One of Virgin Galactic’s largest investors, Chamath Palihapitiya, sold all his personal shares in the company for about $200M in March. Palihapitiya, who still owns shares indirectly through the SPAC he used to take Virgin Galactic public, said he will continue to support the company and is reinvesting his proceeds to focus on climate change.

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