Commercial spaceflight inched one step closer towards reality this week, as professional billionaire Richard Branson watched his Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo complete its first rocket-powered test flight over California's Mojave Desert.
The flight wasn't very long — just 16 seconds total. According to the Wall Street Journal, once SpaceShipTwo was dropped from its carrier vessel, WhiteKnightTwo, the spaceship climbed through the atmosphere to about 56,000 feet, and reached a velocity 1.2 times the speed of sound:
If future testing goes well and "if my wife allows," Mr. Branson joked after watching the test flight, he and his two children plan to be among the first six voyagers to ride the maiden flight of SpaceShipTwo to the edge of space. The trip would send passengers about 60 miles above the Earth's surface, at a maximum speed of about 2,500 miles per hour. [Wall Street Journal]
Start filling those piggy banks, because those seats won't come cheap. The first 600 space-goers will have to pony up $200,000 each for the suborbital thrill ride, where they'll have a chance to experience weightlessness and presumably Instagram really cool photos. The Journal reports that the space tour could happen before the end of this year.