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First Manned Glide Flight for SpaceShipTwo on 10/10/10

SS2 First flight
VSS Enterprise glides safely to earth for the first time.

SS2 First flight
SpaceShipTwo at the moment of release from the mothership WhiteKnightTwo.

October 10, 2010 — VSS Enterprise, SpaceShipTwo, made its first manned free flight above the California high desert Sunday, October 10 (10/10/10), Virgin Galactic announced. The space ship, which had been on four previous captive-carry flights attached to the WhiteKnightTwo mothership, was released from 45,000 ft. altitude and for the ensuing 11 minutes glided safely to the Mojave Air and Spaceport.

The flight crew, Scaled Composites pilot Pete Siebold and co-pilot Mike Alsbury, achieved the two main goals of the flight; to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership, and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave.

Siebold commented, “The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders.”

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and present for the flight, commented, “This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin,” adding that the company would “begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year.”

Other objectives achieved during the flight included verification of all systems working prior to and following the clean release of Enterprise; initial evaluation of handling and stall characteristics; qualitative evaluation of stability and control of SS2 against predictions from design and simulation work; verification of performance by evaluating the lift-to-drag ratio of the spaceship during glide flight; practice a landing approach at altitude; and the landing itself.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides stressed that the challenge now was “to complete our experimental program, obtain our FAA license, and safely bring the system into service at Spaceport America, New Mexico.”

The company reports 370 customer deposits totaling $50 million. It also revealed that the National Geographic channel would air a program at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT October 18 about preparations for this first flight.

The National Geographic channel will air a program on Monday, October 18, at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT about the first flight.

 
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