News / Science & Technology

Virgin's Passenger Spaceship Completes First Rocket Test Flight

SpaceShipTwo under rocket power after being dropped from its 'mothership,' April 29, 2013 (Virgin Galactic photo)
SpaceShipTwo under rocket power after being dropped from its 'mothership,' April 29, 2013 (Virgin Galactic photo)
Reuters
A six-passenger spaceship owned by an offshoot of Virgin Group fired its rocket engine in flight for the first time on Monday, a key step toward the start of commercial service in about a year, Virgin owner Richard Branson said.
       
The powered test flight over California's Mojave Desert lasted 16 seconds and broke the sound barrier.
       
"It was stunning,'' Branson told Reuters. "You could see it very, very clearly. Putting the rocket and the spaceship together and seeing it perform safely, it was a critical day.''
       
The spaceship and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port at 1400 GMT, heading to an altitude of about 14 km, where SpaceShipTwo was released.
       
Two pilots then ignited the ship's rocket engine and climbed another 3 km, reaching Mach 1.2 in the process. Additional test flights are planned before the spaceship will fly even faster, eventually reaching altitudes that exceed 100 km.
       
"Going from Mach 1 to Mach 4 is relatively easy, but obviously we've still got to do it. I think that the big, difficult milestones are all behind us,'' Branson said.
       
Virgin Galactic is selling rides aboard SpaceShipTwo for $200,000 per person. More than 500 people have put down deposits.
       
Branson and his grown children plan to be the first non-test pilots to ride in the spacecraft, about a year from now.
       
SpaceShipTwo is based on a three-person prototype called SpaceShipOne, which in October 2004 clinched the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the first privately funded human spaceflights. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bankrolled SpaceShipOne's development, estimated at $25 million.
       
So far, Virgin Galactic and partner Aabar Investments PJC of Abu Dhabi have spent about $500 million developing SpaceShipTwo, and expect to sink in another $100 million before commercial service starts, Branson said.
       
The company plans to build four more spaceships and several WhiteKnight carrier jets, which also will be used for a satellite-launching business.
       
In addition to flying passengers, Virgin Galactic is marketing SpaceShipTwo to research organizations, including NASA, to fly experiments, with or without scientists.
       
Other companies planning to offer suborbital spaceflight service include privately owned XCOR Aerospace, which expects to begin test flights of its two-person Lynx rocket plane this year.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid