The promise of space tourism has edged one step closer, with Virgin Galactic confirming its prototype space craft has completed its inaugural captive carry flight.
The organisation – which hopes to offer its first commercial flights in 2012 – said the VSS Enterprise has successfully carried out the flight over the Mojave Desert in the United States.
Commenting on the historic flight, aircraft designer Burt Rutan said: “This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams.
“The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program.”
The VSS Enterprise test flight programme will continue though 2010 and 2011.
Subsequent stages will see the craft progress from captive carrying to independent glide and then powered flight, prior to the start of commercial operations.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic added: “Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt and his team have developed for us.
“It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality. Today was another major step along that road and a testament to US engineering and innovation.”