Washington: Virgin Galactic, after launching the historic first rocket-powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle, plans to build a fleet of orbital spaceships and begin ferrying hundreds of tourists into space in 2014.
On Monday morning, Virgin Galactic`s SpaceShipTwo space plane fired its rocket engines for the first time in a test flight out of California`s Mojave Air and Spaceport.
It was released at an altitude of about 46,000 feet before firing its rocket for 16 seconds and racing to a speed of Mach 1.2, fast enough to beat the speed of sound.
Fox News quoted Sir Richard Branson as saying that it was a huge leap for Virgin Galactic, taking the company much closer to its goal of space tourism.
Branson said they have already given the go-ahead to start building more spaceships, more motherships, more satellite launchers. He said it really is the start of a whole new era of space travel.
Only 500 people or so have travelled into space so far. Branson aims to send another 500 into space in 2014 alone, at which point they`ll be able to officially call themselves astronauts.
And Branson has plans for the future of the company: far longer trips into space, potentially lasting for days or even weeks.