Virgin Galactic rocket takes to the skies for test flight

The new SpaceShipTwo has been dubbed Virgin Spaceship Enterprise

From the UK’s Telegraph

he captive-carry test marked the start of a test program for SpaceShipTwo that will progress to free flights as a glider and then under rocket power, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic said in a statement.

Throughout the 2-hour, 54-minute test, the spaceship remained slung beneath the middle of the wing of its unique twin-fuselage carrier aircraft, the WhiteKnightTwo.

The pair achieved an altitude of 45,000 feet before returning to the Mojave Air and Space Port, which is 70 miles north of Los Angeles, the company said.

“This is a momentous day,” designer Burt Rutan said in the statement.

The rocket and mothership are the second-generation of the Rutan-designed system that sent the first privately developed, manned rocket into space in June 2004. SpaceShipOne went on that year to make two more suborbital flights, winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Sir Richard, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group Ltd., is in a deal with the Rutan-founded Scaled Composites LLC of Mojave, California, to develop passenger-carrying spacecraft and launchers.

The new SpaceShipTwo has been dubbed Virgin Spaceship Enterprise and the four-engine carrier jet is called Virgin Mothership Eve, after Sir Richard’s mother.

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