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Virgin Galactic ship completes second successful test flight

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Virgin Galactic’s tourist rocket plane SpaceShipTwo clocked Mach 1.43 in the skies above the Mojave Desert Thursday, completing is second successful test flight

Courtesy Photo A look at the first successful testing of SpaceShipTwo's rocket motor earlier this year.

Courtesy Photo
A look at the first successful testing of SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor earlier this year.

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The test flight was considered a milestone in Virgin Galactic’s effort to be the world’s first commercial space liner, which would make several trips a day carrying scores of paying customers into space from Spaceport America in southern New Mexic.

SpaceShipTwo was flown to about 46,000 feet by a carrier aircraft, and nearly one hour into the flight, it was dropped and began its flight under its own rocket power.

Pilot Mark Stucky and co-pilot Clint Nichols engaged the hybrid rocket motor — powered by nitrous oxide and a rubber compound — for 20 seconds.

SpaceShipTwo blasted to Mach 1.43, reaching about 56,000 feet in altitude.

The rocket plane flew solo for nearly 30 minutes, making a smooth landing in Mojave.

Another key milestone achieved during the test was that the aircraft deployed its twin tail sections to a “feathered” position, which is designed to slow the aircraft’s descent and allow it to return softly to Earth.

The one-of-a-kind design is vital to reducing wear and tear on the six-person rocket ship, so it can eventually make several commercial trips each day into outer space.

Virgin Galactic said it has accepted more than $80 million in deposits from about 630 reservations made by people who are interested in the ride.

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