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Tue 23 Mar 2010 10:48 AM

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Virgin Galactic makes first test flight

Watch pictures of VSS Enterprise spaceship making its test flight in California.

Virgin Galactic makes first test flight
SPACE SHIP: The aircraft is being developed by Scaled Composites. (Getty Images)

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and which Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments has a 32 percent stake in, has made the first test flight of its commercial manned spaceship, it announced on Monday.

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise spaceship made its first ever test flight on Monday morning at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California.

The manned spaceship, which was unveiled to the public on December 7th last year made a test flight lasting 2 hours 54 minutes flight and achieved an altitude of 45,000ft (13716 metres).

The aircraft is being developed by Scaled Composites, who won the $10m contract in 2004 to develop the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft.

The vehicles are designed to carry six passengers on sub-orbital space flights, who will then be able to take part in an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience.

“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 [the] team have developed for us. Today was another major step,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic.

The VSS Enterprise test flight programme will continue through 2010 and 2011, the company said.

Virgin Galactic has so far collected $45m in deposits for spaceflight reservations from over 330 people around the world, including physicist Stephen Hawkins and ex-racing driver Niki Lauda and around 20 from the Gulf region.

In July last year, Virgin Galactic sold a 32 percent stake worth $280m to Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments, valuing the company at $900m.

Watch video of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo roll out event a few month's back: {youtube}v24Qdk7wx7I{/youtube}

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