WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership that will be used to launch Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceship, made its maiden flight on Sunday morning at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
The flight, which was caught on video, lasted for just under one hour. Two pilots guided the 24-metre-long plane to 4,900 metres. Ultimately, the carrier aircraft will need to fly to 14,600 metres to launch SpaceShipTwo.
“The maiden flight went perfectly,” Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, told Wired.com. “With these aircraft, nothing is ever a foregone conclusion. It’s not like pulling another AirBus off the line and putting it into the air. This was a big moment. I think it was a big milestone for the whole industry.”
Engadget reminds us that while the flight was “short and mildly sweet”, it comes three months later than originally anticipated. And the flight was almost delayed further due to 22 centimetres of snow on the airfield on Sunday, Flight International reports.
WhiteKnightTwo is scheduled for several more training runs before it will be tested with SpaceShipTwo, which is still under construction. Tickets for sub-orbital flights on SpaceShipTwo, which will carry 2 crew and 6 passengers, will cost $200,000 each. Virgin Galactic hopes to send its first commercial passengers into space by the end of 2010.
Top image: Virgin Galactic.