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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo goes supersonic in ‘flawless’ test flight

Jonathan Marker | Science Recorder | September 07, 2013

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo goes supersonic in ‘flawless’ test flight

The company has accepted $70 million in deposits from roughly 580 individuals looking to venture into space.

On September 5, the Virgin Galactic commercial spaceline – owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS – achieved another benchmark by successfully completing the second, rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo.  The completely successful test flight achieved the highest altitude and speed to date, and demonstrated the craft’s full technical mission profile for the first time.  This included a high altitude deployment of Virgin Galactic’s “feathering” re-entry device.

The test began when the company’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft took off with SpaceShipTwo at about 8 a.m. local time from the Mojave Air and Space Port.  From there, the mated aircraft ascended to 46,000 feet, whereupon SpaceShipTwo was released from the carrier aircraft and ignited the rocket motor for a 20-second burn to an altitude of 69,000 feet.  SpaceShipTwo achieved its maximum speed of Mach 1.43 during this portion of the mission, then returned to Mojave at 9:25 a.m. local time.  Upon landing, the test pilots at the controls of SpaceShipTwo, Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols, both pilots for Scaled Composites, reported a flawless flight.

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