This is not a science fiction story. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane glided through the air above the Mojave desert Friday. And there have been hints that the first powered flight could come on April 22nd. The date would have been the 69th birthday of Steve Fossett, close friend of the company’s founder, entrepreneur Richard Branson
“The flight went great,” said George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic, a spaceliner firm backed by Branson.
“Today’s mission included a spaceship feather flight demonstration, which was successful,” Whitesides said. SpaceShipTwo’s ability to “feather” its tail section, rotating the tail up to a 65-degree angle from the ship’s body, is a safety feature designed to increase the drag force on the vehicle as it flies through the atmosphere on its return from the edge of space.
“We also tested components of the rocket motor system,” Whitesides said. “The team executed very well throughout and brought us another important step closer to first powered flight.”
Passengers may be able to take flights aboard the 6 seat spacecraft as early as next year. They will be transported above the atmosphere where they will be able to see the earth from an astronaut’s point of view, and experience weightlessness. The cost is expected to be $200,000 per passenger.
The success of SpacShipOne in 2004, when it made several suborbital flights, makes the team very optimistic that the two test pilots will be successful in piloting SpaceShipTwo beyond 100 kilometers (62 miles) in altitude, which is the internationally accepted boundary of outer space.
Columnist-The Guardian Express