Scaled Composites carrier aircraft for the SpaceShipTwo suborbital commercial vehicle took it’s maiden flight Sunday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The flight, at 8:17 am local time, lasted about an hour. The vehicle performed well, according to eye witnesses.
“My congratulations to a great team that worked very hard to get our first flight flown before our Christmas break. We had a fun day at Mojave and now know we have a solid performer that flies beautifully and will soon be moving on to its tasks of launching Spaceships,” added Burt Rutan.
After a number of shakeout flights, the WhiteKnightTwo is to be outfitted with the now-under-construction SpaceShipTwo. That rocket plane is also being built by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California. Ultimately WhiteKnightTwo is to carry the space plane to altitude, where it will then detach and head for suborbital space flights.
The WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo combo is to serve as the backbone of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceline operations.
Virgin Galactic has on order five SpaceShipTwo rocket planes and two of the carrier craft, with options on more.Given a progressive roster of test evaluations at the Mojave Air and Space Port, the spaceline system is to be commercially operated at the now-under-construction Spaceport America in New Mexico. The price tag per seat on the two pilot/six passenger suborbital SpaceShipTwo is $200,000.
On Dec. 15, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) announced that Spaceport America has received its Record of Decision and license for vertical and horizontal launch operations from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation.