SpaceShipTwo Completes First Powered Flight

SpaceShipTwo Virgin Galactic

In the early morning hours on April 29, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2) completed its first rocket-powered flight, breaking the sound barrier over the Mojave Desert and taking a major step toward the age of commercial space 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,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson.

Attached to the WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo departed from the Mojave Air and Space Port at 7:02 a.m., carrying Scaled Composite’s test pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury. At 45,000 feet, SpaceShipTwo was released and, after verifying the stability of the aircraft, Stucky and Alsbury ignited the rocket motor. The rocket fired for 16 seconds. SpaceShipTwo reached 55,000 feet and topped out at a speed of Mach 1.2.

SpaceShipTwo’s flight lasted about 10 minutes and the aircraft returned to the Mojave Air and Spaceport with what was described in a Virgin Galactic press release as a “smooth landing.”

“The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout,” said Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides. “The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests and then make our first test flight into space.”

“The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date,” said Branson.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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