Click the arrow to watch on YouTube the first powered flight of the VSS Enteprise. Video source: Virgin Galactic.
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VSS Enterprise today became the first self-powered commercial spaceship to break the Sound Barrier, when during its first powered test flight the vehicle exceeded Mach 1.
Enterprise is more formally known as SpaceShipTwo, which is the spaceplane model. A second one, VSS Voyager, is being built.
SpaceShipTwo is carried to flight and dropped by WhiteKnightTwo.
According to the Virgin Galactic press release:
“The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. “For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. Today’s supersonic success opens the way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship’s powered flight envelope, with a very realistic goal of full space flight by the year’s end. We saw history in the making today and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.”
MSNBC space reporter Alan Boyle of Cosmic Log posed these questions to Branson after the flight:
Q: You've talked about how you and your family are looking forward to this. After today's launch, are you looking forward to it even more?
A: Of course. It was a thrilling day today. Everything went absolutely according to plan. It looked magnificent. The pilots just loved the experience. I think they were tempted to go straight into space, but knew they'd get fired if they did. We're very much looking forward to getting there either at the end of this year or very early next year.
Q: How many test flights do you think will be needed? You've already mentioned that you are hoping the first spaceflights could happen by the end of this year, and commercial service would follow. Now that the first powered test has taken place, what does the schedule ahead look like?
A: There will be many test flights between now and the end of the year, before we actually go into space. We'll do as many tests as we feel are necessary before we actually turn it over to myself, my children and other people. We'll be working with the FAA and others to get as many flights under our belts as we feel are needed, but I do think we'll be ready by the end of the year.
An image shot today from SpaceShipTwo's boom camera during its first rocket-powered flight. Image source: Virgin Galactic.
A telescopic image of VSS Enterprise in flight today. Image source: Virgin Galactic.
Here are stories posted so far about today's historic flight. The list will be updated as available.
Aviation Week “Virgin Fires SpaceShipTwo Rockets In Flight”
Bakersfield Californian “Success! SpaceShipTwo Flies Under Own Power for First Time”
Click the arrow to watch on YouTube the Bakersfield Californian breaking news report on the SpaceShipTwo flight.
KABC TV Los Angeles “Virgin Galactic Spaceship Takes First Powered Flight over Mojave”
Click the arrow to watch the KABC TV report.
Los Angeles Times “Space-Tourism Firm Virgin Galactic Goes Supersonic in Rocket Test”
The New York Times “Privately Financed Spaceship Roars Closer to Space”
Spaceflight Now “SpaceShipTwo's First Rocket Flight Breaks Sound Barrier”