Space Shuttle In Space

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Makes History with 1st Rocket-Powered Flight in Antelope Valley

According to Space.com, April 29, 2013, the Antelope Valley continues its thrust as a major location for aeronautics with now Virgin Galactic, but also with the Stealth Bomber, and the big three Northrup, Lockheed and McDonald Douglas have manufacturing facilities in the valley. A private spaceship designed to carry space tourists made its first rocket-powered test flight Monday, April 29, reaching supersonic speeds as it paved the way toward commercial flights in the near future. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo space plane fired its rocket engines for the first time during flight this morning in a test from California’s Mojave Air and Spaceport. The vehicle was carried aloft by the mothership WhiteKnightTwo, and then released in midair at an altitude of about 46,000 feet. At that point, SpaceShipTwo test fired its rocket engine, designed to propel the craft the rest of the way up to space. ‘We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space’ said Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides.

SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital vehicle, designed to carry space tourists on trips to the edge of space and back for $200,000 a ride. Though these flights wouldn’t make a full orbit of the planet, they would provide passengers with a brief experience of weightlessness and a view of Earth from the blackness of space. Virgin Galactic is backed by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground at Mojave to view the flight today. If test flights continue to go well, SpaceShipTwo may carry passengers as soon as this year or 2014, Virgin Galactic officials have said.

Already, more than 500 people have signed up for the flights, which will be run out of Spaceport America in New Mexico once testing is complete. Flying aboard SpaceShipTwo were pilot Mark Stucky and co-pilot Mike Alsbury, both test pilots for the private aerospace firm Scaled Composites, which built SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic. It comes after two recent glide test flights, on April 3 and April 12, that set the stage for today’s landmark powered test. Scaled also built the space plane’s predecessor, SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 by becoming the first commercial vehicle to fly people to space and back twice in a week.

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