Virgin Galactic is a company within Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group which plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public, along with suborbital missions and orbitallaunches of small satellites. Further in the future Virgin Galactic hopes to offer orbital human spaceflights as well.
On Monday 22nd March, 2010, Virgin Galactic announced that VSS Enterprise has completed her inaugural captive carry flight.
This very first captive carry was a huge success and both the mothership and spaceship looked stunning against the blue back drop of the Mojave skies.Commenting on the historic flight, Burt Rutan (designer of Spaceship One) said: “This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams. The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program.”
The VSS Enterprise test flight programme will continue though 2010 and 2011, progressing from captive carry to independent glide and then powered flight, prior to the start of commercial operations.
SpaceShipTwo will fly higher than SpaceShipOne, to a height of 110 km in order to go beyond the defined boundary of space (100 km) and lengthen the experience of weightlessness. The spacecraft will reach around Mach 3 (1000 m/s), which is faster than current fighter jets are capable of attaining; however, the spacecraft will not be able to sustain that speed for long periods of time. It has double the crew (2) and can carry triple the passengers (6) of its predecessor.
In honour of the science fiction series "Star Trek", the first two ships are named in honour of the fictional starships "Enterprise" and "Voyager". To re-enter the atmosphere SpaceShipTwo folds its wings up, and then returns them to their original position for a smooth and gentle glide back onto the runway.
The craft has a very limited cross-range capability and until other planned spaceports are built worldwide has to land in the area where it started. Further "Spaceports" are planned in Dubai and elsewhere, with the intention that the spaceline will have a world-wide availability and commodity in the future.
Interested? Tickets start at $200,000 with refundable deposits from $20,000. Make sure you get a window seat!
For more information, www.virgingalactic.com