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SpaceShip2 flies under rocket power

spaceship2 rocketIt’s a big milestone for private spaceflight. Burt Rutan’s SpaceShip2 finally lit the candle and flew under rocket power for the first time.  It even went supersonic, not far from where Chuck Yeager first did that in the Bell X1.  Each flight takes us tantalizingly nearer to the day when paying passengers can see the planet from the (just) outside and experience a few minutes of weightlessness.  The ship’s designer, Burt Rutan, designed and built SpaceShip1 that won the X-prize for the first privately built ship to fly into space (twice) and in the process broke the old record for winged altitude set by the X15.

I first put down a deposit for a suborbital flight last century, and was told it would be “about two years” before a vehicle was built capable of flying me.  Every year since we have been told it would be “about two years” before private passenger flights are made.  SpaceShip2 might just make its first trip into space at the very end of this year, but the best guess is that it will be flying passengers in “about two years.”  Burt Rutan has been hardly quoted in the publicity surrounding the first rocket-powered flight of the new vehicle, but Richard Branson has been widely quoted as usual.  He hopes to make the first passenger flight fairly soon.  Welcome to the departure lounge, Sir Richard.

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