Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M.—Richard Branson reached the edge of space and landed successfully after a flight aimed at spurring a new, multibillion-dollar space-tourism industry.

The British entrepreneur and five crew members crossed the threshold on a test flight of the spacecraft developed by Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., which climbed more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The spacecraft VSS Unity landed back at the Spaceport America facility in New Mexico on Sunday after a flight lasting about an hour. It successfully separated from the launch plane VMS Eve, which took off after a weather delay, before its onboard rocket fired and sent it higher.

At the peak, Mr. Branson and other crew members unbuckled and experienced weightlessness and peered at Earth and into space from a dozen windows in the cabin.

The flight is part of a broader push from companies and investors to develop viable businesses based on human space flight, long dominated by government space agencies with scientific and policy missions. There have been instances of private space-tourist trips in the past, such as the investor Dennis Tito’s 2001 visit to the International Space Station, but building a private industry around such travel has proved elusive for commercial enterprises so far.

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