Filed under: Wings
Public space travel took another leap forward last week when Virgin Galactic made its maiden voyage in the skies over the Mojave Desert in California. The test flight consisted of carrier plane WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) taking flight for the first time while carrying SpaceShipTwo (SS2), the vessel that will eventually be the one to take passengers out to space. The plan is for WK2 to carry SS2 up to a high altitude before dropping it, at which point the hybrid rocket motor will fire and SS2 will carry passengers the rest of the way out to space on its own.
During this first test flight WK2 flew with SS2 for about 3 hours, without incident or hiccup. There are many more test flights to be completed (test hops, drop flights, and actual trips to space) before passengers will be allowed to take tourism flights out of Spaceport America in New Mexico. The project is running longer and is costing more than originally anticipated, but the hope is that SS2 will undergo its first powered test by the end of this year and that the project could be opened to passengers as soon as late 2011 or early 2012.