Aviation News

October 10, 2010

Photo Gallery: Virgin Galactic Enterprise Rocket Plane Completes First Manned Glide Flight

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GF01 Glide flight test flight

GF01 Glide flight test flight
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The Virgin Galactic SpaceShip2 (VSS Enterprise) glides toward earth. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, aka VSS Enterprise, made its first un-powered flight over the California desert early Sunday, an important milestone before powered testing of the commercial tourist spacecraft begins next year.

Released from its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, also known as the VMS Eve, 46,000 feet above Mojave, Calif., Enterprise glided back to Mojave Air and Space Port (MHV). The ship was piloted by test pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury from Scaled Composites, the Burt Rutan-founded firm which designed and built the spacecraft.

Virgin Galactic said a number of objectives were reached during the flight, including “verification that all systems worked prior and following the clean release of Enterprise; initial evaluation of handling and stall characteristics; qualitative evaluation of stability and control of SS2 against predictions from design and simulation work; verification of performance by evaluating the lift-to-drag ratio of the spaceship during glide flight; practice a landing approach at altitude and finally descend and land.”

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson was on hand for the flight, saying, “This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin. 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. Now, the sky is no longer the limit and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year.”

Virgin Galactic has booked 370 customers and $50 million worth of deposits for space flights.