Sir Richard Bransom, the founder of Virgin Group, says, ". . . the sky is no longer the limit . . ." as Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo successfully completed three milestone tasks Monday.
Bransom told The Associated Press that there are a number of big deals on the way to getting commercial space travel to become a reality. This was a very big step. We now know that the spaceship glides. We know it can be dropped safely from the mothership and we know it can land safely. "That's three big ticks," he said.
SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Enterprise, was carried to an altitude of 45,000 feet by the WhiteKnightTwo mothership (Eve) and released over the Mojave Desert. The Enterprise glided free for 11 minutes before landing.
GF01 Glide flight test flight. Photo by Clay Observatory
Commenting on the successful flight, SpaceShipTwo pilot Pete Siebold said “The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders.”
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, added “Now, our challenge going forward will be to complete our experimental program, obtain our FAA licence and safely bring the system into service at Spaceport America, New Mexico.” Virgin Galactic is a US company developing the world’s first commercial manned space flight system and tourism business.
At least 370 paying passengers have already cast their vote of confidence in Bransom's dream by ponying up deposits totaling some $50 million.
National Geographic channel in the United States will be showing a documentary on the build up and preparation for the first flight of VSS Enterprise on Monday, 18 October at 10.00pm ET/PT.