Virgin Galactic Has First Rocket-Powered Flight Test

Mojave-based commercial spaceflight firm Virgin Galactic has completed the first, rock-powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo space vehicle, the company said this morning--which the company says is the "final phase" of vehicle testing before it launches its commercial service. SpaceShipTwo is Virgin Galactic's suborbital space vehicle, intended to take tourists into space from a new spaceport in New Mexico.

virgin Galactic said that the test began a 7:02 a.m., when Virgin Galactic's carrier aircraft, the WhiteKnightTwo took off to 47,000 feet. The SpaceShipTwo was then launched and powered to 55,000 feet using the spacecraft's rocket engine, reaching Mach 1.2. Virgin Galactic said the SpaceShipTwo landed in Mojave at just about 8 a.m. In an actual flight, the SpaceShipTwo will power itself into space, and later return by gliding back to earth. Virgin Galactic's design is based on the first, commercial vehicle to reach space, the SpaceShipOne. The company has been working since 2005 to commercialize technology in SpaceShipOne for space tourism.