Virgin Galactic Makes Test Flight
Via the Los Angeles Times:
Virgin Galactic, British billionaire Richard Branson’s commercial space venture, reached its highest altitude yet Friday in a supersonic rocket plane that’s set to carry paying customers into sub-orbit later this year. The company’s SpaceShipTwo blasted through the sound barrier and sped to Mach 1.4, climbing to 71,000 feet in its first powered test flight of the year. The flight, the program's third rocket-powered test flight, is the latest milestone in Virgin Galactic’s goal to take dozens of people into space multiple times each day. The test flight took place shortly after sunrise Friday beginning on the desert runway at Mojave Air and Space Port, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. During the test, SpaceShipTwo was taken to about 46,000 feet by a carrier aircraft and dropped like a bomb. After a short free fall, test pilots Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky engaged the hybrid rocket motor, powered by nitrous oxide and a rubber compound, for about 16 seconds, at which point SpaceShipTwo accelerated to Mach 1.4.Amazing video.