Why it’s a big deal: The hardware for the first commercial spaceflight enterprise works.
On Monday, Virgin Galactic‘s VSS Enterprise, attached her mothership, the VSS Eve, successfully completed a test flight. The flight started at 7:05am (PST) and lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes, achieving an altitude of 45,000 feet. More test flights are scheduled for this year. The next test for the Enterprise will be to glide independently from the mothership, followed by independent powered flight.
This was a critical step in making space tourism a reality and paves the way for Virgin’s first paying flights, which Virgin is planning for 2011.That’s good news for the over 330 people who have already plopped down deposits for the $200,000 tickets for a total of over $45M, and 80,000 more people who are on the Virgin Galactic waiting list.
Actual flights the mothership will bring Enterprise to an altitude of 50,000 before release. 2 pilots and 6 passengers will be treated to a brief zero-g experience and view of the Earth. Passengers will be able to float free of their seats during the sub-orbit flight.