Virgin Loses Its Virginity...

...in the skies that is. Today saw the inaugural flight of Virgin Galactic's suborbital aircraft SpaceShipTwo from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Designed to be carried aloft by a mother aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, the future spacecraft rolled down the desert runway and took to the skies gracefully for the first time, staying aloft for over three hours. This was of course a shakedown flight and represented a systems and hardware test, but still the significance of the first flight of the first commercial suborbital carrier is a significant event on the human spaceflight calendar.

After winning the $10 million Ansari X-Prize in 2004, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne concept was adopted by Sir Richard Branson and developed into a fully viable passenger space vehicle launched from the belly of a mother aircraft. Virgin Galactic is aiming to begin passenger operations in late 2011 or early 2012, but at $200,000 a pop it isn't going to make it into that many Christmas stockings in the first year. Maybe year two... here's hoping.

Things are definitely moving forward in the Human Spaceflight department. Slowly, deliberately, but still forward. Let's just hope it takes off (pun intended) and is a commercial success so the cost can be brought down to a level where us pleb Spacers can have a go!

Happy Dreaming, Spacers!

Image credit: Virgin Galactic
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