Virgin Galactic’s space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo has completed its first solo glide flight, marking another step closer in the company’s eventual plans to fly paying passengers to space.
SpaceShipTwo was carried by its mother ship to an altitude of 45,000 feet and released over the Mojave Desert, which spans California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. After the separation,
SpaceShipTwo, manned by two pilots, flew freely for 11 minutes before landing safely at an airport runway followed by the mother ship. The entire test flight lasted about 25 minutes.
The six-passenger SpaceShipTwo is undergoing rigorous testing before it can carry tourists to space. Until now, SpaceShipTwo has flown attached to the wing of its special jet-powered mother ship dubbed WhiteKnightTwo. The recent flight was the first time the spaceship flew on its own.
The “flight marks another key milestone towards opening the space frontier for private individuals, researchers, and explorers,” John Gedmark, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said in a statement.
Tickets to ride aboard SpaceShipTwo cost $200,000. Amazingly, 370 customers have already paid deposits totalling $50 million to secure their seat on board the first space flights, according to Virgin Galactic.
Whilst on a work trip to Swedish Lapland a couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to visit the Esrange Space Center, where Virgin Galactic have chosen to be their European Spaceport for commercial space flights, due to it’s isolated location and limited air traffic.
Perhaps ‘space travel insurance’ will be next on the cards for us here at 24/7 travel insurance!