Monday, April 29, 2013

Commercial spaceship completes first rocket-powered flight

Commercial spaceship completes first rocket-powered flight, Virgin Galactic, which hopes to operate the world’s first commercial spaceline, has completed the first rocket-powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo space vehicle.

The April 29 test began in Mojave, Calif., when SpaceShipTwo took off mated to carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo. At an altitude of 47,000 feet, the space vehicle was released from the aircraft and its rocket motor was ignited. SpaceShipTwo propelled forward, reaching an altitude of 55,000 feet and exceeding the speed of sound. The space vehicle cruised about 10 minutes before returning to Mojave.

“For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight,” said Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group co-owns Virgin Galactic with Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS.

More flight tests are planned in the coming months.

“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," Branson said.

SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo are both manned and were developed by Scaled Composites, whose SpaceShipOne was the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft.

Virgin Galactic said it has accepted $70 million in deposits from about 580 people who are waiting for the chance to ride its vehicles into space. The company aims to serve space tourists and microgravity researchers.

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