The VSS Enterprise had a successful flight March 22, 2010. Photo by Mark Greenberg.
Virgin Galactic -- the private space firm headed by Sir Richard Branson (and the leading reason you or I might actually get into space) -- announced today the successful inaugural "captive carry" flight of the VSS Enterprise.
Captive carry refers to a flight in which a mothership supports the secondary ship, such as a missile or, in this case, a spaceship.
Enterprise's flight, which took place over the Mojave desert from the Mojave Air and Spaceport, was "a huge success," according to Virgin Galactic.
"Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us, but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles [spacecraft designer Burt Rutan] and his team have developed for us," said Branson. "It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality. Today was another major step along that road and a testament to U.S. engineering and innovation."
Rutan himself called it a "momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams" and said it was the start of "what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program." Scaled Composities is a Mojave-based air vehicle design firm.
Virgin will continue testing VSS Enterprise through next year, moving from more captive carry flights to independent powered flight.