Virgin SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital spaceflight vehicle, completed its first rocket-powered flight at the company’s Spaceport America in New Mexico’s Mojave desert in April 2013.
The test flight, which lasted for about 10 minutes, broke the sound barrier and reached a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. It is the first among a series of planned powered test-flights over the next few months. The flights will eventually lead to a full-fledged sub-orbital test-flight.
Virgin Galactic expects to launch commercial sub-orbital flights for space-tourists by the end of 2013.
Virgin Galactic, which calls itself the world’s first “commercial spaceline,” is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS.
The company claims that nearly 580 people have booked for short space tourism flights on its vehicles at ticket-prices of about $200,000 per individual. Passengers on these flights will also be able to experience weightlessness for a few minutes.