Private aerospace company Virgin Galactic, which hopes to offer commercial space-flight services from 2012 onwards, completed the first test flight of Spaceship 2 (also known as Virgin Space Ship Enterprise) yesterday.
The Enterprise was flown in a Captive Carry flight from Mojave Air and Space-port, in which the spaceship remained attached to the Mothership (WhiteKnight 2).
When testing is completed, Virgin Galactic will offer suborbital flights to passengers on board the Enterprise. The journey starts with Enterprise suspended from the centre wing of the Mothership, a twin-hulled aeroplane, which hoists the spaceship up to fifty thousand feet. The spaceship then detaches from the Mothership, engaging its own rocket engines to sail up into space in a ballistic trajectory similar to that followed by Cold War nuclear missiles. After reaching a peak altitude of one hundred kilometres, and experiencing zero gravity and an astronauts view of Planet Earth, the ship descends back into the atmosphere to land like a conventional plane. Meanwhile, the Mothership has landed back at it’s home space-port, ready to launch the next flight.
Bookings have already opened for anybody interested in such a flight. Tickets start at $200,000 and the waiting list already has three hundred passengers!