Private Spacecraft Nearing First Test Drop

MOJAVE, Calif., July 21 (UPI) — A private spaceship built to take space tourists on a suborbital thrill ride could be flying on its own by this fall, its builders say.

Space tourism company Virgin Galactic, which has been taking its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft on test flights attached to a huge mother ship, says it could make its first drop flights over California’s Mojave Desert for glide and landing tests, reported Wednesday.

“There’s a reasonable possibility that we could see the first drop flight in the fall, but as always, everything is predicated on thoroughness and safety,” Virgin Galactic commercial director Stephen Attenborough said. “No corners will be cut in order to achieve arbitrary deadlines.”

Founded by Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic says it will build a fleet of space liners to launch paying customers on suborbital hops into space.

SpaceShipTwo will carry six passengers and two pilots on suborbital flights lasting a few minutes before returning to Earth.

At $200,000 a ticket, paying passengers on SpaceShipTwo will experience weightlessness and glimpse the darkness of space and the view of Earth below.

The spacecraft is designed to drop from a mother ship called WhiteKnightTwo from an altitude around 50,000 feet and fire a rocket motor to launch into suborbital space, reported.

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