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Virgin Galactic Embarks on Maiden Voyage Above Mojave Desert

Virgin Galactic

Space geeks, fasten your seatbelt and zip up your flying suits (protein pills and helmets are, of course, optional). Virgin Galactic's passenger spaceship, the Enterprise, took to the skies for the first time yesterday, attached to her proud Mom, the Eve. Lasting around three hours, the flight took both components, SpaceShipTwo, and WhiteKnightTwo, the commercial spaceship's mothership, up to around 45,000 feet over the Californian desert.

Virgin Galactic

At around 7 a.m. PST, the craft trundled down the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Five minutes later, she was airborne. Bert Rutan, the designer behind the Enterprise, called the voyage a momentous event for the teams behind the space plane. "The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be an extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program."

Virgin Galactic

The twofer spaceship will continue on test flights throughout the year, increasing its height to 50,000 feet—or 9.4 miles—and leading to drop tests, before the spaceship fires up its own hybrid rocket motor for the first time.

Virgin claims that it has already taken $45 million from 330 paying customers willing to pay $200,000 each to experience life in space. There is still no launch date for the first commercial flight, however, but expect tests to continue through 2011.

[Virgin Galactic]