Sir Richard celebrates another achievement as VSS Enterprise, the world’s first commercial spaceship, takes to the skies at California’s Mojave Air and Spaceport.
This Monday marked another milestone in the dawn of space tourism as Richard Branson’s VSS Enterprise, the sleek craft that made its public debut last December to a crowd of VIP’s and “Future Astronauts” (passengers who have paid deposits to be first in the space queue) made its inaugural flight at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in the California desert. A “captive carry” flight─meaning the spaceship remained attached to its mothership, the VMS Eve─the craft soared for almost three hours up to 45,000 feet above the cobalt skies of the California desert community of Mojave, where the Enterprise was designed by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites team, the developers of SpaceShipOne and winners of the Ansari X prize.
“This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams,” said Branson. “The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program. 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. It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well.”
Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles share much of the same basic design as the original SpaceShipOne craft, but are being built to carry six fare-paying passengers on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience and astounding views of the planet from the inky darkness of space.
Virgin Galactic has already taken around $45m in deposits for spaceflight reservations from over 330 people wanting to experience space for themselves. The first flight of VMS Enterprise is yet another step in an exhaustive flight testing program, which started with the inaugural flight of VMS Eve in 2008 and is at the heart of Virgin Galactic’s commitment to safety. The VSS Enterprise test flight program will continue though 2010 and 2011, progressing from captive carry to independent glide and then powered flight, prior to the start of commercial operations. Sign us up!