Well Virgin Galactic has had a first piloted test flight and claimed success for it's objectives. I may live to see tourist flights to space yet.
Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Glides to Safety
Virgin Galactic, the U.S.
company developing the world's first commercial manned space flight system and
tourism business, announced the successful completion today of the first
piloted free flight of SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Enterprise. The spaceship was
released from its mothership at an altitude of 45,000 feet, according to
company information, and glided to land at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California
During its first flight, Pete Siebold, assisted by Mike Alsbury as co-pilot,
piloted the spaceship. According to Virgin, the two main goals of the flight
were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for
the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave.
Other objectives of the flight were also completed, including verification
that all systems worked prior to and following the clean release of the 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, and practice of a landing approach
at altitude and finally descend and land.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, was present during the first
successful flight. "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," he said. "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 said it is now well on the way to becoming the world's firstRead more at www.eweek.com
commercial space line, with 370 customer deposits totaling $50 million. Future
commercial operations will be at Spaceport America
in New Mexico, where final
preparations are taking place for a finished runway inauguration ceremony on
Oct 22. 2010, according to a company release.