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SpaceShipTwo Test Flight Success

Roar away! Photo credit: Bill Deaver/Deaver-Wiggins and Associates

SpaceShipTwo's second powered flight. Credit: VG/MARS Scientific

Tarmac touchdown. Photo credit: Bill Deaver/Deaver-Wiggins and Associates

The sky above the Mojave Air and Space Port in California was the scene for another test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – the reusable space plane destined to carry tourists to the edge of space.

The September 5 flight – the vehicle’s second powered flight, saw the craft achieve the highest altitude and greatest speed to date.

The test flight also demonstrated the vehicle’s “full technical mission profile” in a single flight for the first time, including a high altitude deployment of the unique wing “feathering” re-entry mechanism.

According to a Virgin Galactic statement: “All of the test objectives were successfully completed.”

Two pilots

Carried aloft by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, SpaceShipTwo was released at an altitude of 46,000 feet.

After release, SpaceShipTwo pilots, Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols, both of Scaled Composites in Mojave, ignited the rocket motor for the planned 20-second burn.

The motor pushed the spaceship to 69,000 feet.

Soaring to that altitude, the rocket plane achieved a maximum speed of Mach 1.43, with the vehicle touching down safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Major supersonic milestone

“We couldn’t be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts as we move toward a 2014 start of commercial service,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson in a press statement.

When fully operational, the WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system is slated to fly two pilots/six passengers on suborbital, “pay-per-view” treks from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“Each powered flight of SpaceShipTwo yields cumulative progress that builds the foundation for safe and exciting commercial space flights,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides.

Passenger list growing

Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline.

To date, the company has accepted nearly $80 million in deposits from approximately 630 individuals, which is approximately 10 percent more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space.

The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic’s vehicle fleet by Mojave-based Scaled Composites.

Job hunter’s please note

Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company will host a career fair in Mojave, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 8 – 11 a.m. PST with a virtual career fair taking place from 9 – 10 a.m. PST at google.com/+VirginGalactic.

More than 100 open positions are available with specific career details posted at:

http://www.virgingalactic.com/careers/

and

http://www.thespaceshipcompany.com/careers

By Leonard David

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