Virgin Galactic Breaks Two Records At Once
Kyle Maxey posted on January 14, 2014 |

virgin, space, exploration, spaceship, supersonic, test, In a recent test flight, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) broke two of its own records, reaching a top speed of Mach 1.4 while cruising some 21,641m (71,000ft) in the air.

Piloted by Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky, SpaceShipTwo was lifted to an altitude of 14,020m (46,000ft) by Virgin’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. Once stabilized in the troposphere, SpaceShipTwo was dropped from its carrier putting the burden of propulsion squarely on its rocket engine.

Within seconds of its departure the commercial craft’s engines were alight, lifting the craft to its planned altitude at supersonic speed.

While this most recent test was the first time SpaceShipTwo had been tested at supersonic speeds, the trial wasn’t just about the numbers. Engineers at Virgin were also testing the craft’s new reflective coating which protects the tail boom from being singed during engine burns.

In addition to the successful trial of its new coating, SS2 also had the opportunity to engage its feather re-entry system. Given the fact that the craft landed safely at its home base in the Mojave Desert, I can only conclude that the ship’s re-entry system is performing admirably.

For Virgin, the test is further confirmation that their technology is nearly ready for full-scale commercial operations. “Today’s flight was another resounding success,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. “We focused on gathering more transonic and supersonic data, and our chief pilot, Dave, handled the vehicle beautifully. With each flight test, we are progressively closer to our target of starting commercial service in 2014.”

Throughout the rest of the year I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from the people at Virgin, and hopefully see the beginning of regular, passenger space flights too.

Images and Video Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

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