Mark Greenberg//Clay Observatory for Virgina Galactic/AP/File
In this 2010 file photo released by Virgin Galactic, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, or VSS Enterprise, glides toward the earth. SpaceShipTwo has been cleared for test flights by the FAA.

Virgin Galactic spaceship cleared for test flights

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, a commercial six-passenger spacecraft, to begin rocket-powered suborbital test flights, the company said on Wednesday. Virgin Galactic is owned by billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has cleared SpaceShipTwo, a commercial six-passenger spacecraft owned by Virgin Galactic, to begin rocket-powered suborbital test flights, the company said on Wednesday.

SpaceShipTwo manufacturer Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, received a one-year experimental launch permit on May 23 for test flights beyond the atmosphere, FAA spokesman Hank Price said.

The six-passenger, two-pilot spacecraft is based on the prototype SpaceShipOne, also built by Scaled, which clinched the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 for the first privately funded human spaceflights.

SpaceShipOne made three suborbital hops beyond the atmosphere, each with a solo pilot aboard, ultimately reaching an altitude of nearly 70 miles above Earth. SpaceShipOne is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Virgin Galactic is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS. Branson hired SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan, who has since retired from Scaled, to create a fleet of spaceships for commercial use. Virgin Galactic has taken deposits from more than 500 people for rides, which cost $200,000.

Participants will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curve of Earth set against the black sky of space. NASA's first two manned spaceflights in 1961, by Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil "Gus" Grissom were suborbital flights.

Like SpaceShipOne, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will be flown into the air beneath a carrier jet and released. Once separated, the spaceship's rocket engine will fire to blast it into the sky. SpaceShipTwo has completed 16 free flight tests.

The FAA permit will enable Scaled, now wholly owned by Northrop Grumman, to move on to rocket-powered flights, the first of which is expected toward the end of the year, Virgin Galactic said in a statement.

Company President George Whitesides called the permit an “important milestone "that positions the company “a major step closer to bringing our customers to space."

In addition to flying wealthy tourists, Scaled has signed contracts to fly researchers and science experiments.

The experimental permit allows Scaled to fly only its own test pilots, not passengers, Price said.

A date for the start of Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceflights has not yet been set.

(Editing by Jane Sutton and Anthony Boadle)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Virgin Galactic spaceship cleared for test flights
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0531/Virgin-Galactic-spaceship-cleared-for-test-flights
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe