Virgin VSS Enterprise Makes First Manned Flight
VSS Enterprise glides safely back to land…
Virgin Galactic has moved one step closer to taking passengers into space as its SpaceShipTwo, the VSS Enterprise, completes its first manned flight.
On Sunday 10/10/10, the VSS Enterprise was launched at 45,000 ft from the VirginMotherShip, WhiteKnight Two or Eve (Christened after company founder Richard Branson’s mother), at which point pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury assisted the glider safely back to ground at the Mojave Air and Space Port – a state funded $200m spaceport covering a 27 square mile area of land in the southern part of the New Mexico.
VSS Enterprise And MotherShip Eve
According to Virgin Galactic, the 25 minute test flight was conducted in order to test the mothership’s release mechanism, as well as the handling, stall characteristics, stability and control of the Enterprise.
The carbon-fiber VSS Enterprise is a direct descendant of SpaceShipOne, the suborbital glider designed by Burt Rutan that won the Ansari X Prize. As well as being one of the highest-altitude gliders in the world, the SpaceShipTwo is also capable of reaching Mach 3 speeds using a hybrid rocket motor.
VSS Enterprise and MotherShip Eve
‘SpaceShipTwo [built by Mojave’s Scaled Composites] uses all the same basic technology, carbon composite construction and design as SpaceShipOne. However it is around twice as large as that vehicle and will carry six passengers and two pilots. It is 60ft long with a 90″ diameter cabin.’ [Virgin Galactic]
Eve and Enterprise have already made several test flights together, but Sunday marked the first time the suborbital spaceplane had been released at altitude. [BBC]
“For the first time since we seriously began the project in 2004, I watched the world’s first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port and it was a great moment.”[BBC]
Virgin Galactic aims to become the world’s first commercial space line, offering the chance of a few minutes weightlessness – and an astonishing view – to any paying customer. The company has already received a total of $50 million from 370 customers willing to pre-book one of the first commercial spaceflights in history.
- Overview: Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic. 2009-2010. \
- Jonathan Amos; Virgin Galactic's spaceship makes solo flight. BBC, 10/10/2010.
- Eliza Strickland: Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship-for-Tourists Takes Its First Solo Flight. 80beats Blog, Discover, 10/11/2010.
- Rebecca Boyle: Virgin Galactic's Enterprise Makes Maiden Manned Flight. PopSci, 10/11/2010.