The test officially marks Virgin Galactic’s entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The test began at 7:02 a.m. local time when SS2 took off from Mojave Air and Space Port mated to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic’s carrier aircraft in the presence of representatives from Aabar Investments from Abu Dhabi and Virgin Group.
Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the flight, SS2 was released from WK2. The pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor propelling SS2 forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. During this time, SS2 went supersonic, achieving Mach 1.2.
“We partnered with Virgin Galactic several years ago with the aspiration to transform and commercialize access to space for the broader public,” said His Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of Aabar Investments.
“Today’s test is another key milestone in realizing that aspiration,” he added.
“Our partnership goes from strength to strength, and is an excellent example of Aabar’s desire to participate in the development of world class technologies that are commercially viable and strategically important, both for Aabar, its majority shareholder IPIC, and for Abu Dhabi,” he added.
The entire rocket-powered flight test lasted just over 10 minutes, culminating in a smooth landing for SS2 in Mojave at approximately 8 a.m. local time.
In the coming months, the spaceship’s powered flight envelope will be expanded culminating in full space flight, anticipated to take place before the end of 2013.
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