Virgin Galactic had a successful run of its SpaceShip2 rocket powered vehicle today, breaking the sound barrier, and rolling into the final phase of testing before it sets out to be the first commercial sub orbital space carrier by the end of 2013. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group was on hand to witness the test flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
“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.” – Sir Richard Branson.
Aided by the carrier aircraft WhiteKnite2 to an altitude of 47000 feet, the SpaceShip2 then disengaged from the carrier aircraft, and rose to an altitude of 55,000 during an engine burn of 16 seconds. Achieving a top speed of Mach 1.2 on its first rocket powered test is not a bad result for what will be the flagship of Virgin Galactic’s commercial space service.
“The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout. 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.” – George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic President & CEO.
SpaceShip2 has a cabin that is 90 inches in diameter by 12 feet in length and will carry six passengers as it is manned by two pilots. With a pricetag of $200,000 and a $20,000 refundable deposit due at reservation, this certainly positions sub orbital space flight to be the trip of a lifetime.
Source: Virgin Galactic