VIRGIN Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot spacecraft aiming to make the world’s first commercial suborbital spaceflights later this year, conducted its third rocket-powered test flight on Friday.
The 20-second rocket burn, over California’s
It was the third powered test flight for SpaceShipTwo, which was designed and built by
“She flew brilliantly,” Mackay said in a statement from
“To be behind the controls and fly it as the rocket ignited is something I will never forget,” Mackay added.
The spacecraft, which is hauled into the air by a carrier jet and released, also has made 28 glide flights. It is modeled after the prize-winning SpaceShipOne prototype, which made a trio of suborbital spaceflights in 2004 to clinch the
With SpaceShipTwo tucked between its twin hulls, Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two carrier jet took off from the
“I couldn’t be happier to start the New Year with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full space flights. 2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space,” Branson said in a statement.
The upcoming flights are designed to reach altitudes of more than 65 miles (100 km) above Earth, high enough to see the curvature of the planet set against the blackness of space. Riders also will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the ship re-enters the atmosphere.
SpaceShipTwo’s last rocket-powered flight was in September, part of a rigorous test program prior to the start of commercial flight services.
Other companies developing passenger suborbital spacecraft include privately owned
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