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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid