Commercial space-tourism vehicle makes first crewed flight

SpaceShipTwo, the flagship of honest-to-god eccentric billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial space-tourism prototype fleet, has been successfully tested by onboard human operators. Via Jason Paur in Wired:

SpaceShipTwo, attached to its mother ship Eve, departed the Mojave Air and Space Port. Many, including us, were anxious to hear whether the first glide flight of the spacecraft also known as VSS Enterprise would happen, especially since we knew a chase plane followed SpaceShipTwo into the sky.

As we reported yesterday, the flight test team at Scaled Composites has been busy preparing for the first glide flight. There have been four flights of WhiteKnightTwo in the past month where the crew has made practice approaches similar to what will be flown in the VSS Enterprise.

Virgin Galactic, the company behind the development of SpaceShipTwo and private space tourism, says yesterday’s flight marked the first time SpaceShipTwo flew with a crew on board.

Peter Siebold, test pilot and director of flight tests at Scaled, joined fellow test pilot Michael Alsbury aboard the VSS Enterprise as it remained mated with WhiteKnightTwo throughout the flight. It was the third captive flight for the craft and the 33rd flight for the mother ship. The craft spent six hours and 12 minutes aloft testing SpaceShipTwo’s systems. Virgin says all went well.

There has been no announcement on a date for the first solo flight of SpaceShipTwo.

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