Virgin Galactic Successfully Tests SpaceShipTwo Feathering Re-Entry System

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has successfully launched the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane for the second time.  The SpaceShipTwo is being considered as the first truly commercial spaceship.

The first SpaceShipTwo flight took place in April.  The SpaceShipTwo went supersonic once more and this time the aircraft tested their wing-tilting re-entry system.

Virgin Galactic said that the flight test hit their planned duration, altitude, and speed.  The hybrid rocket engine was fired for 20 seconds, which sent the SpaceShipTwo to a max. velocity 1.43 times the speed of sound and a max. altitude of 69,000 feet (21 kilometers).  During the first flight in April, the SpaceShipTwo’s rockets fired for 16 seconds, hit a top speed of Mach 1.2, and climbed to 56,200 feet.

Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols worked as the pilots during the test on Thursday.

The flight followed a basic scenario for Virgin Galactic’s future passenger trips to space as well.

“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,” stated Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson. “It was particularly thrilling to see for the first time today the whole elegant system in action during a single flight, including the remarkable feathering re-entry system. It was this safety feature more than anything else that originally persuaded us that the overall design of the system was uniquely fit for purpose. Everything we have seen today just confirms that view.”

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