Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Breaks Speed Of Sound In First Rocket-Powered Test Flight

Virgin Galactic successfully completed the first rocket-powered test of its SpaceShipTwo (SS2) aircraft, the vehicle that the company will use to launch the world's first commercial space flights later this year.

The test began at 7:02am, taking off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA.  After a 45-minute ascent to 47,000 feet, aided by Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo, the SS2 ignited its rocket motor for 16 seconds, propelling the craft to an altitude of 55,000 feet, breaking the sound barrier in the process.  The flight lasted 10 minutes, and there was no incidents.

“The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. “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. We saw history in the making today and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.” 

In the coming months, the Virgin Galactic team will expand the spaceship's range of powered flight, culminating in a craft that will be fully capable of space flight, ready by the end of 2013.

Source: Virgin Galactic