Maiden flight for Virgin Galactic's 'SpaceShipTwo' (Update)

March 22, 2010 handout photo shows the first flight of the Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2 from in Mojave, California. Virgin Galactic's experimental SpaceshipTwo (SS2), an aircraft designed to one day carry paying customers into space, had its maiden flight in the California desert Monday, company officials announced.

Virgin Galactic's experimental SpaceshipTwo (SS2), an aircraft designed to one day carry paying customers into space, had its maiden flight in the California desert Monday, company officials announced.

The spacecraft, brainchild of British entrepreneur Richard Branson, took off nestled under the wing of its mothership White Knight Two (WK2).

"Virgin Galactic announced that its commercial manned spaceship, VSS Enterprise, this morning successfully completed its first 'captive carry' test flight, taking off at 07:05 am (PST) from Mojave Air and Spaceport, California," the company said in a statement.

The British magnate lauded the innovative design for Virgin Galactic delivered by Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's aircraft maker in Mojave. The design was unveiled December 7 and dubbed Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Enterprise.

In the future, WK2 will carry SpaceshipTwo to an altitude of around 50,000 feet (16 kilometers) before dropping the smaller spaceship and allowing it to fire up its rocket motor to launch into space.

Monday's test flight, which lasted just a few minutes, was the first in which both aircraft went aloft without separating. The test flight was carried out about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Los Angeles.

Virgin Galactic aims to become the world's first commercial company to promote space tourism. It hopes to start test flights in 2010-2011, with tourists able to shell out 200,000 dollars per person.

If you think the waiting list to fly into space might not exactly be crowded, think again; Virgin Galactic already has collected 45 million dollars in paid deposits from more than 330 people who have reserved seats aboard the six-person craft.

"This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams," Rutan glowed.

"The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be an extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program."

And Branson was not shy about voicing his satisfaction.

"Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt and his team have developed for us," he said.

So "it comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality. Today was another major step along that road and a testament to US engineering and innovation," Branson added.

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1.6 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2010
Cool, but misguided intentions.
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2010
why misguided???
4.2 / 5 (11) Mar 22, 2010
commercialising space is the only thing that is going to drive spacefaring technology.

and before anyone suggests that the money could better be put into other tech, think of the technological advances we will make when we expand our horizons past terra firma.

that said, I'll wait for the price to come down a bit before I take a ride.
5 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2010
The spacecraft, brainchild of British entrepreneur Richard Branson...
I take issue with this characterization. Branson may have provided the venture capital, and input on passenger payload and cabin aesthetics for the commercial version, but the original idea, the aerodynamics, as well as the engineering is entirely and indisputably Rutan's.

The first Spaceship/WhiteKnight were designed by Scaled (with Rutan at the helm) for the X-Prize competition (which they won), entirely on Rutan's own initiative and with Scaled's own funds.

Branson deserves credit for being a visionary venture capitalist, and jumping on a good opportunity when he was offered the chance, but he is neither the originator nor the brains behind this venture.
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2010
I wouldn't really call it space. They'll only go about 60 miles up and they won't be in orbit. About the only way you can call it space is that the atmosphere is very very thin and you can see the curvature of the earth, which you can see from about 12 miles up.
5 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2010

60 miles up (100 km up) is the internationally accepted definition of space. Just because they don't go into orbit, doesn't negate the fact that suborbital trajectories can reach space. John Glenn is considered the first U.S. astronaut, even though he only took a suborbital trip (well... before he became a senator, that is...)

Granted, the energies required for orbit are much higher, as is the reciprocal shock of reentry. Keeping the system sub-orbital greatly reduces its complexity and cost, as well as the kinds of forces and temperatures it will have to endure.

Still, it is a good step, and better yet it is a commercially viable one. Hopefully, the technology can be improved further (with respect to materials and engines), and maybe eventually to a point where it can transition to orbital trajectories -- or at least carry a piggyback orbital delivery stage for small payloads...
5 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2010

way to go Rutan !
always building "out of the box"
go for the stars one day.
get that bird up there!

"get it up"
4.8 / 5 (5) Mar 22, 2010
Hey PinkElephant

Alan Shepard was the first American into space. John Glenn was the third, but the first to orbit..

My advice is always free
And worth every penny
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2010

Oh, oops. Looks like I got my "firsts" all mixed up. My bad, yeah I suppose I was talking about Alan Shepard (and forget about that senator thing...)
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2010
I'm assuming the next step, once this is off the ground, is orbiting the globe once to return to the spaceport.

Happy to see this project underway, and hope it spurs the desire for space exploration in people as most can't afford the 30+ million to ride the Russian version.
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2010
Maybe this will eventually lead to fast intercontinental flights. You take off in USA go into orbit and land in Europe in about 2 hours.
You can commute to work in Europe but we do not need low skilled american workers in europe.
2 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2010
Maybe this will eventually lead to fast intercontinental flights. You take off in USA go into orbit and land in Europe in about 2 hours.
You can commute to work in Europe but we do not need low skilled american workers in europe.

3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2010
You can commute to work in Europe but we do not need low skilled american workers in europe.
How ridiculous. I guess that's what Richard Branson was going for - low-skilled American workers. Wake up!
1 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2010
I dont know...the "mother ship" is ugly (and doesn't look too terribly aerodynamically sound)...and the 2 prong approach've been saying from the get go on this project that all of this crap, and 200k per person, just to get to lower orbit is a waste.
Yes, I KNOW some of you wish to hell you could do this (as weve previously discussed), but I have yet to change my mind. When they can get me to the dark side of the moon where I can jam some Pink Floyd just for the occasion (with keeping or dropping the 200k price tag)...then I will be more impressed...but I will not be truly impressed until these trips are feasible fopr any middle class man or woman (or family) to make....50-75 years off still I think though :(

I do however wish I had 200k to waste on something like this...although it would go to something more useful...say, a Lamborghini :)
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2010
This is a waste of resources and "small potatoes" compared to the sorts of things we really need to be doing.

Yeah, of course some venture capitalist is going to do the "tourism" gimmick just "because he can" because there are some mis-guided rich folk (your Oprahs, your Jessica Simpsons, and YOur Britney Spears, not sure who else goes on that list, oh yeah, Tome Cruise,) who are dumb enough to want to waste 200k on a few minutes of a glorified roller coaster ride.

What they should be doing is figure out how to put people on the moon and mars, and figure out how to mine asteroids in a profitable manner (nano.)

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