Virgin Galactic's commercial space plane makes first successful test flight

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Virgin Galactic's commercial space plane makes first successful flight

Attention, amateur space cadets! If you’ve ever wanted to swing on a star or see one up close, consider this proof positive Virgin Galactic’s that much closer to making your dreams come true. SpaceShipTwo, its inventively named commercial vehicle designed to take well-moneyed civilians into outerspace, has just completed its first rocket-powered test flight. The craft, partially owned by Virgin group overlord Sir Richard Branson and the Abu Dhabi-based investment group PJC, took off earlier today from its berth at Mojave Air and Space Port in California, where carrier-craft WhiteKnightTwo ferried it to a 47,000 ft altitude after which its own rockets kicked in for a supersonic flight. In all, the solo run lasted just slightly over ten minutes, during which the SS2 notched an altitude of 55,000 feet before returning safely back to its desert port.

For its first outing, the SS2 scored high marks by Virgin Galactic chief George Whitesides’ estimation, performing just as expected with “expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid… handling qualities throughout.” It’s encouraging news for the nascent commercial space industry, although it’s worth noting this flight carried reduced risk considering it was bound to our own atmosphere. The team anticipates that “full space flight” testing will begin sometime before year’s end. As for when you’ll be able to actually book a real deal luxury space flight? Virgin Galactic’s set a tentative 2015 date for that, giving you, the every(wo)man, plenty of time to save up or mortgage your life for the opportunity to tour the cosmos.

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Source: Virgin Galactic

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