Virgin Galactic Completes Third Powered Test Flight This Morning (More Video Added!)
This morning I woke up to news that Virgin Galactic had successfully completed its third powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo. The 20 second rocket burn pushed the spaceship again past the speed of sound to Mach 1.4 (looking forward to hearing my first SpaceShipTwo sonic boom myself) and up to 71,000 ft. This is the highest altitude ever achieved by the SpaceShip and beats the previous altitude by 2000 ft.
This flight allowed Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay to gain hypersonic experience in the spaceship that to date has been flown by Scaled Composite's Test Pilots. Congrats to Dave on a great flight!
NBC did a nice bit on it with some great video footage so I am adding that here too (I apologize in advance for the commercial you may have to watch). I love that the new reflective thermal coating on the tail booms make the footage distinct from the previous two powered test flights. Reminds me of how you can know if a Space Shuttle launch is from STS-1, 2 or 3 based on if the external tank is still being painted white or not. The video also says that 675 people have already bought tickets or put down deposits!
The beautiful flight follows on the heels of the Virgin Galactic 2013 Year in Review Blog/Video that came out while I was in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle last week. Richard Branson posted an amazing end-of-year blog post and video highlighting the milestones met by Virgin Galactic in 2013. The milestones are made all the more poignant with "never-before-seen" video of a full duration burn of the SpaceShipTwo rocket motor running along the bottom of the frame throughout the highlights reel. 2014 looks to be a big year for Galactic.
You can read Branson's inspiring and heartfelt post yourself on his blog.
I've also included two photos from SpaceShipTwo's most recent glide flight (without rocket power) on Dec 11th that was Galactic Pilot Mike "Sooch" Masucci first flight (which is why he got the ceremonial water drenching...) and the first flight with the new reflective coating on the inside of the SpaceShip's tail booms. Branson also posted about an "Unidentified Festive Object" that spotted around Christmas time in a reflection on the new thermally-protected tail booms. Hope you enjoy! Photo Credits: J. DiVenere / Scaled Composites