It’s the next critical step for SpaceShipTwo, which is moving from a series of glider flights that started in December 2016 to rocket-powered ones this year at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California, said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides.
“We’re about done with the glide-flight phase,” Whitesides told the Journal last week. “The next step is powered flights through an incremental process to test performance. Powered flight will push the vehicle into supersonic flight, and eventually to multiple times the speed of sound.”
That puts the company nearly back to where it was in October 2014, when its first SpaceShipTwo broke apart in a powered flight over the Mojave Desert. That accident set back the launch of commercial flights from New Mexico’s Spaceport America by years. Human error caused that incident after the copilot prematurely engaged the rocket’s braking system, tearing the vehicle apart in midair in an accident that killed the copilot and injured the pilot.