At approximately 7:47am MDT on the 29th April, the future of space tourism became one step closer to reality. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two (SS2) fired its rocket motor and after a 16 second burn completed a successful test flight.
During the brief time that SpaceShip 2 (christened VSS Enterprise) was in the air, it achieved an altitude of 55,000ft and a speed of Mach 1.2. After a total flight time of just over 10 minutes it touched down safely in Mojave.
“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, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. “For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight.”
SpaceShip 2 was carried to its launching altitude by White Knight 2 (WK2) (named VMS Eve after Sir Richard Branson’s mother). Once at 47,000ft Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, who was piloting WK2 at the time, released SS2 into free flight. Once verifying checks were completed, Mark Stucky, the test pilot, triggered the rocket motor ignition system and propelling the spacecraft on-wards & upwards.
“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.”
As the test program expands and begins it’s final phase Virgin Galactic and the manufacturer Scaled Composites, hope to see the first powered spaceflight by the end of this year. When that day is reached, it will mean the end of the test program and the beginning of entry to commercial service. I wonder how many miles it would take to cover the $200,000 ticket cost.
|This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent.
Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.