Space fans rejoice! We’re now one small step closer to space tourism as Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its second powered test flight to break the sound barrier and climb higher than ever before. Here’s how it went down: the “WhiteKnightTwo carried the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) to an altitude of 46,000 feet above the Mojave desert before the spacecraft pilots started the rocket motor, which propelled the SS2 to 69,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.” Continue reading for two videos and more information.
They only burned the rocket engine for 20 seconds, but the spacecraft reached a top speed of Mach 1.43. While the speed of the test was impressive, the scientists were mostly interested in how the craft’s re-entry system functioned.
The feather mechanism was fully deployed in flight at high altitude for the first time and is an innovation like a giant shuttlecock that slows the spaceship down and is crucial for it traveling back into the Earth’s atmosphere.