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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two Completes First 'Cold Flow' Rocket System Test

17/04/2013 08:43 BST

Richard Branson's dream of ferrying paying tourists into space came a step closer last week with the successful completion of a "cold flow" test of its spacecraft.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two flew high above the Mojave Desert in California as oxidiser - rocket propellant - was pumped through the propulsion system for the first time.

Although it was not ignited, it indicates the rocket is ready for the next stage - fully fired up testing.

virgin galactic rocket test

SpaceShip Two leaves a clearly distinguishable trail of oxidiser

A statement of the Virgin Galactic website said: "As well as providing further qualifying evidence that the rocket system is flight ready, the test also provided a stunning spectacle due to the oxidizer contrail and for the first time gave a taste of what SpaceShipTwo will look like as it powers to space.

"The upcoming first powered flight of SpaceshipTwo is in many ways the most significant milestone to date, being the first time that the spaceship has flown with all systems installed and fully operational. It’s an incredibly exciting stage of the program."

Although still in the testing phase, Virgin Galactic's craft could be ready to take paying tourists into space as early as next year.

The world's first purpose built spaceport is currently being built in the Mojave Desert.

Amongst the first customers for the sub-orbital space flight could be Tom Cruise. The Hollywood A-lister recently told the Sun he would consider paying £130,000 for a seat onboard.

"Who wouldn’t want to do something like that?" he added.