Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, designed to take the first space tourists on suborbital flights, has just completed its first rehearsal journey with crew above the Mojave desert.
Although the first test flight for SpaceShip Two, aka, VSS Enterprise – designed by Scaled Composites – took place in March 2010, this latest was a crewed flight complete with full vehicle systems tests carried out for the duration of the flight while it remained attached to WhiteKnight Two.
In a full trip into zero gravity for future space tourists, SpaceShip Two detaches from the mothership at a height of about 50,000 feet when it leaves the atmosphere.
At this point, the rocket on board SpaceShip Two brings it to a peak of 360,00 feet in 90 seconds – this is the main part of the trip for the maximum of six space tourists who unbuckle and experience zero gravity.
"For the first time, VSS Enterprise flew with crew on board. As planned, the spaceship remained attached to VMS Eve (captive) for the duration of the flight and numerous combined vehicle systems tests were conducted," said Virgin Galactic on its official website.
"In addition and for the first time, the two crew members on board VSS Enterprise, evaluated all of the spaceship’s systems and functions from end to end in the air. Objectives achieved."
Testing will continue throughout 2011 with plans for commercial flights after this.