Yesterday Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceship made its maiden voyage at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier plane flew for about three hours while carrying SpaceShipTwo (SS2), the craft designed to eventually propel two pilots and six passengers to the edge of space. In the future, WK2 will carry SS2 to an altitude of around 15.2km before the spaceship is dropped and fires its hybrid rocket motor to reach the edge of space at just over 100km. The first commercial flights are expected to start by the end of 2011 or early 2012.
The carrier plane and suborbital spaceship were built for British billionaire Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceliner fleet.
According to observers at the site, the aircraft-spaceship combo flew for roughly three hours. Conditions at Mojave for the test flight were described as being a beautiful day with a slight breeze.
SpaceShipTwo is the prototype for the world's first commercial passenger spaceship, destined to take private astronauts into suborbital space and paving the way for space transportation.