Virgin Galactic planning glide flight test

Virgin Galactic’s space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo may fly free in its first glide test later this year, a company official said Friday. The six-passenger spaceship has been carried aloft three times attached to the wing of its special jet-powered mothership, including a July 15 flight with two pilots aboard.

That flight allowed the crew to evaluate all systems and functions in the air, said Stephen Attenborough, an executive with Virgin Galactic. The company has said the test program is expected to run through next year before commercial operations begin. Some 300 clients have paid for a $200,000 ticket or placed a deposit, according to the company.

The company is “evaluating the data from this recent captive-carry flight before we know when the first SS2 independent glide flight will be but there’s a reasonable possibility that we could see it happen in the fall,” Attenborough told The AP.