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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane glided through the air for the first time in six months on Tuesday, signaling a new chapter in a test program that could soon lead to outer space. The rocket plane went for a ride from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, hooked beneath its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane. About 45 minutes later, SpaceShipTwo was released and glided back to the airport. It counted as SpaceShipTwo's 52nd flight and WhiteKnightTwo's 156th.
In January, SpaceShipTwo blasted off for a powered test and sailed through a follow-up glide flight, but then it went into the shop for rocket refitting. It's expected to go through a series of glide flights and powered flights that eventually rise beyond the boundary of outer space (50 miles or 100 kilometers in altitude, depending on who's counting). Virgin's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, could fly into space later this year depending on how flight tests go. More than 700 people have paid up to $250,000 each to take a ride once Virgin Galactic begins commercial service.
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— Alan Boyle, NBC News
NBCUniversal has established a multi-platform partnership with Virgin Galactic to track the development of SpaceShipTwo and televise Richard Branson's spaceflight.