April 29, 2013

Virgin Galactic spaceship makes 1st powered flight

Raquel Maria Dillon / The Associated Press

MOJAVE, Calif. — A spaceship bankrolled by British tycoon Sir Richard Branson made its first powered flight Monday in a test that moves Virgin Galactic toward its goal of flying into space later this year.

While SpaceShipTwo did not break out of the atmosphere during the test flight, it marked a significant milestone for Virgin Galactic, which intends to take passengers on suborbital joyrides.

During the early morning flight, SpaceShipTwo, strapped beneath a twin-fuselage jet, took off from an airport runway in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. The jet released SpaceShipTwo, which ignited its engine for 16 seconds, then glided to a safe landing.

Until now, SpaceShipTwo has only performed unpowered glide flights. Several powered flights are planned this summer, culminating with a dash into space targeted toward the end of the year.

SpaceShipTwo is the commercial version of SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first private manned rocket to reach space. Since the historic flight, more than 500 aspiring space tourists have paid $200,000 or plunked down deposits, patiently waiting for a chance to float in weightlessness and view the Earth's curvature from 62 miles up.

Branson initially predicted commercial flights would begin in 2007, but a deadly explosion during ground testing and longer-than-expected test flights pushed the deadline back.

No date has been set for the first commercial flight from a custom-designed spaceport in New Mexico, but Virgin Galactic executives have said it will come after testing is complete and it secures approval from the government. Branson previously said the maiden passenger flight will carry his family.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)