Sir Richard Branson's passenger spaceship broke a few barriers during its short flight.
During a ten minute flight, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo successfully fired its rocket motor and boosted for 16 seconds, blowing past the sound barrier and making it to Mach 1.2. At the conclusion of its ten minute flight, SpaceShipTwo (SS2) touched down in New Mexico at Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America. The flight was a test exercise aimed at getting SS2 ready for space flights by the end of the year. Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is the model for their commercial spaceline business, where customers will pay a premium price to take flights out into near space. SS2 makes it into the sky using an assist craft, called WhiteKnightTwo, to get up to about 47,000 feet. Once there, SS2 releases and takes over powered flight on its own.
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic's founder, was on the ground in the Mojave when SS2 landed. "The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date," he said, "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."
Branson has been saying that we're going to space with him since about 2004, and his first goal was 2008. Currently, Branson is predicting that we'll enjoy commercial space tourism flights in 2014. Let's hope he gets it done before a decade passes.
Source: Virgin Galactic
If you're into rockets, robots, and the like, you might like the Geekend Update, our weekly science show. It's posted fresh every Saturday.