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The test broke the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic successfully completed the first rocket-powered test flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2) -- which means it's now in the final phase of vehicle testing.

The test was conducted by Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. The test began at 7:02 a.m. PST when SS2 took off while connected to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic’s carrier aircraft.

Around 45 minutes later, SS2 reached an altitude of 47,000 feet and disconnected from WK2. Pilots then triggered the rocket motor, which opened the main oxididizer valve and fired igniters within the fuel case. 

SS2 propelled forward to 55,000 feet, with the engine burn lasting a total of 16 seconds. During that time, SS2 went supersonic -- reaching Mach 1.2.

SS2 landed around 8 a.m. PST.

“The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson. “For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. Today’s supersonic success opens the way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship’s powered flight envelope, with a very realistic goal of full space flight by the year’s end. We saw history in the making today and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.”

Branson was present for today's test, but stayed on the ground to observe. 

Virgin Galactic now plans to conduct a full space flight before the end of 2013 with more testing on the way. It plans to offer a commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Earlier this month, SS2 completed another successful test flight where it glided with oxidizer flowing through its engine.

Source: Virgin Galactic

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Very neat, but a novelty.
By 91TTZ on 4/30/2013 10:39:30 AM , Rating: -1
If they offered me a free ride I'd take one, but there's no way that I'd pay $250k for the ride, even if I was loaded with money.

There's limited practicality to a zoom climb. It reaches an altitude and then falls back down.

RE: Very neat, but a novelty.
By nafhan on 4/30/2013 11:45:23 AM , Rating: 3
It's a vehicle designed for space tourism, and tourism is generally based around "attractions" or novelties.

That said:
--This IS advancing the state of the art.
--There aren't currently any other reusable space vehicles.
--The design is unique and unlike previous reusable space vehicles in several ways.
--The ticket price is LOW compared to pretty much any other way of getting to the altitude this is designed for.

Truly, if some rich people want to blow their money on a novelty that finances improvements in rocket/space tech... I'm fine with that!

RE: Very neat, but a novelty.
By cyberguyz on 4/30/2013 12:31:11 PM , Rating: 2
I am sure Bill Gate's kids would be more than happy to pay a quarter mill for the chance to get a peek at the earth from several miles up.

RE: Very neat, but a novelty.
By Ammohunt on 4/30/2013 12:32:14 PM , Rating: 2
I agree if the end point of the flight was an orbital hotel then yeah that would be work it. If all they are selling is suborbital flights it much cheaper and safer to send up a balloon carrying a pressurized capsule.

RE: Very neat, but a novelty.
By aliasfox on 4/30/2013 12:34:39 PM , Rating: 4
Obviously, this is just not something you're passionate for.

If my mortgage is paid, retirement funded, and kids' education are all covered, I'd seriously consider doing this.

Imagine, if you will, that in 10 years, this is half the price that it is now ($125k/person). Two people would go for ~$250k. A nice car (big Bentley, Ferrari, upper end Aston) goes for $250k.

A trip to space, even for 10 minutes, is a significantly more unique experience than simply getting a super-nice car or even a terrestrial round-the-world tour. Being able to see the world in a way that up until now, only a few dozen people have been able to? Looking down upon the world, looking up at the true blackness of space? Definitely something I'd want to do.

Then again, I watch Star Trek, so maybe it's just me.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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