Virgin Galactic Supersonic SpaceshipTwo Makes First Powered Flight: Breaks Sound Barrier, WATCH It Here--VIDEO
On Monday Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo made its first powered flight, breaking the sound barrier in a test over California's Mojave Desert and Space Port.
According to Space.com SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry six passengers to suborbital space and the back to Earth. When Virgin Galactic begins commercial operations, a carrier aircraft called WhiteKnightTwo will loft SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15,500 meters).
SpaceShipTwo is set to reach a maximum altitude of 361,000 feet, from there passengers will see the blackness of space and the shape of the Earth, they will also experience about five minutes of weightless.
When the spaceship took off around 7:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, a special twin-fuselage jet carrying SpaceShipTwo spent 45 minutes climbing to an altitude of 48,000 feet and finally released the spaceship.
Pilot Mark Stucky and co-pilot Mike Alsbury then triggered SpaceShipTwo's rocket engine.
According to CTVnews.com Virgin Galactic's CEO George Whitesides the engine burned for 16 seconds, launching the spaceship to an altitude of 55,000 feet and a velocity of Mach 1.2, surpassing the speed of sound.
"SpaceShipTwo then glided to a safe landing at Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles." The 10-minute test flight was considered a major step for the program.
Virgin Galactic Founder, Sir Richard Branson told Space.com that "In about a week's time, we're going to put the price up to $250,000 until the first 1,000 people have traveled, so that it matches up with inflation since we started."
It is rumored that about 580 people have already put down deposits for a ride into space however these passengers signed up for tickets at the price of $200,000. But now Branson is insisting that for future passengers it is the right time for a temporary price hike.
Virgin Galactic has said commercial operations could start by the end of this year or early 2014.