It's been quite awhile since we last heard about Virgin Galactic, the Richard Branson owned arm of space tourism, but this bit of news is pretty exciting. Even if it is still pretty expensive. And we mean that mildly. The maiden voyage of the Enterprise (why does that sound familiar...) happened over the course of Monday, with the help of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, codenamed Eve.
The Eve carried the Enterprise 45,000 feet into the air above the Mojave Desert, after they launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port. The Enterprise is Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo spaceliner, and it's specifically designed to carry eight bodies: six passengers, and two pilots. While we wish this was launching lucky passengers all the way into space, that's not exactly the case here. The Enterprise is designed to enter into suborbital space, and not any further.
The Enterprise reaches those heights by the help of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, Eve. As you can see from the image, the Eve flanks the Enterprise on either side, with its fuselage in a pair on either side of the Eve's body. And, as we reported way back in 2008, it will still cost you $200,000 to get a ticket, but that doesn't seem to be slowing anyone down. According to Virgin Galactic, over 330 people have dropped the necessary funds to get their suborbital flights. For now, test flights are scheduled until 2011, while the Eve and Enterprise work in tandem to rise higher into the skies, before the Enterprise will finally test its hybrid rocket booster, which will propel it into suborbital space. Baby steps are definitely necessary for commercial space travel.
[via Fast Company]