Virgin Galactic Makes Successful Test Flight
Posted on April 29, 2013
Virgin Galactic made its first successful rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo (SS2) today, Monday 4-29-13. The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic's entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
SS2 took off at 7.02am local time mated to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic's carrier aircraft. Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the flight, SS2 was released from WK2. After cross-checking data and verifying stable control, the pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor, causing the main oxidizer valve to open and igniters to fire within the fuel case. At this point, SS2 was propelled forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. SS2 achieved Mach 1.2 during the test flight.
Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson said in a statement, "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."
Branson says the ship will undergo slightly bigger test flights in the future with bigger burns each time. Take a look: