Virgin Galactic Conducts First Rocket-Powered Test Flight of SpaceShipTwo
April 29, 2013 8:24 PM
The test broke the speed of sound
Virgin Galactic successfully completed the first rocket-powered
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.
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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