Virgin Galactic's Spaceship-for-Tourists Soars in a Successful Test Flight

By Andrew Moseman | March 23, 2010 9:19 am

Virgin Galactic’s  newest spacecraft has taken to the skies in its first successful test flight. Billionaire founder Richard Branson unveiled and christened the VSS Enterprise (previously called SpaceShipTwo) in December, and yesterday it soared 45,000 feet for about three hours above the Mojave Desert in California.

That altitude pales in comparison to Branson’s goal. When Virgin Galactic is ready for a true flight, the Enterprise and its carrier vehicle will fly to even higher heights, where the Enterprise will separate and blast off on its own. The craft will climb to about 60 miles above the Earth’s surface. At that suborbital altitude, passengers will experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. The price for the experience: $200,000 [Los Angeles Times]. Despite the steep price tag, more than 300 people have already signed up for their chance to reach space. CNN reports that 80,000 are on the waiting list, so even if you consider 200 grand a pittance, you might have to wait.

Enterprise was designed and built by Burt Rutan, founder of Mojave-based Scaled Composites, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman [Reuters]. Test flights continue through next year, and Branson wants to begin commercial operations in 2012.

Related Content:
80beats: Virgin Galactic Unveils New Rocket for (Super-Rich) Space Tourists
80beats: Virgin Galactic Unveils Its New Space Tourism Rocket (Enterprise’s carrier vehicle)
DISCOVER: SpaceShipOne Opens Private Rocket Era
DISCOVER: Space Travel For Every Budget
DISCOVER: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Living in Space
Bad Astronomy: How Safe Is Space Tourism?

Image: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology
  • julianna

    i think that the enterprise is a great idea. i mean of course they still probally have to work out some more details and other kinds of things but they have the base to a really cool idea. i think that if i had that kind of money and i could get one of those tickets i so would…i mean who wouldnt want to see space right? one thing that i was wondering when i was reading the article is, is it going to be safe? i mean im sure that they are testing it and all that kind of stuff but we are putting human lives at risk. but i guess if they are willing to take the risk then go for it!

  • mason

    I think this is one of the few times imo when privatization is a really good idea. Whether we think it’s necessary or not, we need to continue to develop new forms of space travel and technology to facilitate it. What the ppl whose only argument is “we have too many problems down here to be worrying about this,” they fail to understand the two most important implications of aeronautical research. The first is for national defense… it’s bad enough that nasa has to rely on Russia to ferry them to the ISS. If we keep going at this rate, our disadvantage will only grow as they continue to develop new technologies in their space program while we pump the brakes on ours. Is air and space superiority something you really want the Russians to have? It doesn’t seem like a good idea for any one country to have, let alone one whom we have a sketchy history with. The second is that with aeronautical research comes a flood of new technologies, most of which are very applicable to us down on earth. For example, if it wasn’t for nasa, we wouldn’t have the chips that we use for non-invasive biopsies, solar energy, and a whole litany of other things (http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html#Top has a good number of inventions that most of us don’t know came from our space program). And if you’re one of those ppl that are so skeptical (or cynical imo) that you still don’t think that any of the things on this list warrant a larger investment in a privatized space industry, just remember that while you sleep at night, you most likely have nasa to thank for that, too. If you use any type of home security system, chances are they use infrared and laser technology that came out of nasa’s research (just look at the adt home security infrared camera page. They even admit that the technology came from nasa!)

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