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Virgin Galactic sets sights on space this Saturday

After an aborted test flight in December, Richard Branson's space tourism dream will try to take flight again.

Virgin Galactic is still working to get its space tourism business off the ground.
Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic says it's ready to take its latest shot at space, this weekend.

Richard Branson's space plane sightseeing outfit has faced a number of delays over the years but continues trying to complete a few more test flights before finally moving to commercial operations. The company last attempted to fly its rocket-powered SpaceShipTwo Unity in December, but an issue with electromagnetic interference caused an onboard computer to abort ignition.

Virgin vowed to try again in February but later pushed that date back to May to allow more time to check out technical concerns.

On Thursday, the company confirmed in a statement that "the next rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity will be conducted on May 22, pending weather and technical checks."

Virgin Galactic says it's also completed a maintenance review of the jet aircraft that carries SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 50,000 feet where it's then dropped for rocket ignition to power itself into orbit.

"Following a detailed inspection and thorough analysis of our mothership, Eve, we have cleared our Spaceflight System for our upcoming flight," said CEO Michael Colglazier.

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The flight will be crewed by two pilots and also loft science and research payloads for NASA. Virgin Galactic adds it'll also be taking the opportunity to evaluate some elements of its passenger cabin and test the capability to livestream from the spaceship to the ground.

Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 by Branson and has continued to work toward flying paying passengers to orbit through several setbacks, including a crash that killed a test pilot and the challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flight scheduled for Saturday is set to take off from Spaceport America in the southern New Mexico desert. If there's a livestream, we'll embed the feed here when it becomes available. Follow more-incremental updates on my Twitter feed, @EricCMack.

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