Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has completed its first rocket-powered test flight, reaching a maximum speed of Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 55,000 feet during the flight.
This isn’t the first flight that SpaceShipTwo has completed with the rocket engine but it is the first trip that the space tourism vehicle has completed with the engine being powered. Late last year a test flight was undertaken with the rocket components installed but inactive.
The current test flight saw launch vehicle WhiteKnightTwo carrying SpaceShipTwo to a height of 47,000 feet before releasing the space vehicle which then fired its rockets, breaking the sound barrier and reaching the 55,000 foot mark before returning to land safely. The rocket-powered flight took ten minutes.
Virgin Galactic plans to extend the range of SpaceShipTwo until it is capable of reaching space. This is expected to take place by the end of this year so it looks like Richard Branson and his family will make their trip date after all.
Source: Ars Technica