24 March 2010
Other - Other (None)
SpaceShipTwo Gets a Lift
Virgin's successful test flight
by G B Leatherwood
On December 8, 2009, SpaceShipTwo was unveiled to an audience composed of dignitaries, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, in the face of an impending hurricane.

On March 22, 2010, three months later, SpaceShipTwo, now christened “VSS (VirginSpaceShip) Enterprise” took its initial flight on a bright, sunny California desert morning.

The flight was a captive carry designed to test the flight-worthiness of the VSS Enterprise; Virgin Galactic’s first ship was ferried by Scaled Composite’s ship, WhiteKnightTwo, now named “VMS (VirginMotherShip) Eve.”

The flight lasted 2 hours 54 minutes and achieved an altitude of 45,000 ft, just 5,000 ft. short of the eventual point where it will be released and will fire its own engine for the rest of the ride.

In its press release announcing the successful flight, Virgin Galactic owner and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson said with characteristic restraint, “Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt [Rutan, Scaled Composites aircraft maker in Mojave, CA] and his team have developed for us.”

Rutan himself 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 an extremely exciting and successful flight test program.”

This flight was the first of many tests the craft must perform before carrying passengers to the edge of space. Testing will continue until 2011, taking incremental steps until the VSS Enterprise is flying on its own power.

More pictures and comments can be found on the Virgin Galactic Web site. For more photos and comments see this.
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G B Leatherwood 24 March 2010
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