Virgin Galactic Completes New Test Flight With Third Crew Member

(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Galactic completed its fifth supersonic test flight on Friday, marking a key milestone by putting a third employee on the spacecraft.

Beth Moses, Virgin’s chief astronaut instructor, flew with two pilots to begin human cabin testing, CEO George Whitesides wrote on Twitter. Virgin Galactic said the test flight reached an altitude of 55.9 miles and a speed of Mach 3.0 during its ascent.

Moses is a former NASA engineer who worked on the International Space Station program. Her work at Virgin involves helping customers prepare for the rigors of spaceflight and micro-gravity. The company, which plans to take well-heeled tourists to space, says those who fly will complete a two-day preparatory course at its New Mexico campus.

Virgin Galactic aims to begin its first customer flights in 2019, depending on flight-test data. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has said he will be among the first customers to fly aboard the craft.

The company will move operations from Mojave, California, to Spaceport America in New Mexico before commercial space flights begin.

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