Seven months after making its first captive flight attached to its mother ship White Knight Two, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (aka VSS Enterprise) completed its first solo glide flight today touching down on runway 30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The early morning flight took place after several months of simulated practice flights in the mother ship, also known as Eve, which has an identical cockpit as the space craft.
The glide flight is a critical first step for the team at Scaled Composites which is building the space ship for Virgin Galactic. Though there has been no word from the company, it is expected the flight test development of the VSS Enterprise will be similar to that of SpaceShipOne.
Back in 2003, SpaceShipOne performed seven solo glide flights before the first powered flight on 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight.
Virgin Galactic boss Sir Richard Branson recently announced he expects the first passenger flights to suborbital space in SpaceShipTwo to happen within the next 18 months. Less than a year after the first glide flight of SpaceShipOne, the Scaled Composite team had flown to space three times, capturing the X Prize.
Passengers aboard the Virgin Galactic flights will be rocketed to more than 100km (62 miles) above the earth. The astronauts aboard the SpaceShipTwo flights will experience weightlessness as they float around the cabin for a few minutes and will be able to see the darkness of space and the curvature of the earth below. Several hundred tickets have already been sold for $200,000 each.
We’ll have more details on the first glide flight of SpaceShipTwo including images later today.
Photo: Virgin Galactic