Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic – the world’s first commercial spaceline – just announced that its SpaceShipTwo (SS2) successfully conducted its first rocket-powered flight. The test, which saw the rocket-powered spacecraft break the sound barrier, marks Virgin Galactic’s entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to launching its commercial service from New Mexico.
In a statement, Sir Richard said: “The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date. 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.”
The spacecraft, which was piloted by Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury, reached 47,000 feet before the rocket motor was ignited, propelling the ship to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet at Mach 1.2. The entire rocket-powered flight test lasted just over 10 minutes, culminating in a smooth landing in Mojave at approximately 8am local time.
“The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout,” said Virgin Galactic President & CEO George Whitesides. “The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space.”
Via News Daily