On January 10, 2014 Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted it highest test flight yet at 71,000 feet at a top speed of Mach 1.4.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo successfully completed it’s third test flight reaching an altitude of 71,000 feet and a top speed of Mach 1.4 (1.4 times the speed of sound, which is 761 mph). The flight took place over the skies of California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. The flight benchmarked a huge advancement for space travel.
The flight began aloft under it’s carrier plane, WhiteKnightTwo, to an altitude of 46,00 feet. SpaceShipTwo is then dislodged from WhiteKnightTwo. SpaceShipTwo begins it’s journey to 71,000 feet by igniting it’s hybrid rocket engines (20 seconds). The purpose of the test was meant to monitor the thermal coating on the tail of the spacecraft and the ship’s control system. The flight was piloted by Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky.
The experience for a passenger would be a few minutes of weightlessness and views of the Earth that are breathtaking. The spacecraft is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots. It’s estimated that the cost to hop on a flight and head to space will be $250,000 each. Justin Beiber and Katy Perry have already made their reservations to take a hop to space.
“I couldn’t be happier to start the New Year with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full space flights,” Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic founder.
Update: The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has begun studying the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) which is founded by British engineer, Alan Bond. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory finds this technology to be promising for future commercial space travel. In January, The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory began a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Reaction Engines, the manufacture of SABRE. The AFRL is currently building SABRE engine prototypes to consult it’s own testing and hopes to continue the project contingent on US Government military travel loans.
Video/Photo source: VirginGalactic.com