SpaceShipTwo makes 1st rocket-powered flight
Zee Media Bureau
California: The dream of taking a trip to space has come a step closer to reality with the Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2) spacecraft making its first successful rocket-powered test flight on Monday.
SpaceShipTwo ignited its rocket engines for the first time during test flight conducted above the Mojave Desert, California on April 29, at around 14:00 GMT.
The spacecraft was carried aloft by the mothership WhiteKnightTwo and was released in midair at an altitude of about 46,000 feet.
At that point, the rocket engine burned for a short period of just 16-seconds propelling the vehicle to a maximum altitude of 56,000 feet before flew back to Earth.
SS2, which has made a total of 26 test flights, was for the first time propelled beyond the sound barrier to a speed of Mach 1.2 that is 761 miles per hour (1224 km/h).
"For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. 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,” Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group said in a statement.
Next time, the company plans to keep the rocket going longer, to bring SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of more than 328,000 feet, on the edge of space.
Virgin Galactic is part of British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group, which plans to provide private trips to space.
The space vehicle has a room for two crew and six passengers. Space tourists will have to shell out USD 200,000 to experience approximately six minutes of weightlessness during what will be a two-hour end-to-end flight.