Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Spaceliner Completes 2nd Glide Flight
SpaceShipTwo after its 2nd glide test.
Credit: Bill Deaver

Virgin Galactic's private SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft has completed its second glide test at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The sleek vehicle built by Mojave-based Scaled Composites was lifted off the ground Oct. 28 by its huge WhiteKnightTwo mothership. In midair, the craft was released and completed a nearly 11-minute glide under the controls of Scaled Composites test pilot Mark Stucky and copilot Mike Alsbury.

The spacecraft is Virgin Galactic's bid to carry space tourists to suborbital space for a brief view of the Earth below and a few minutes of weightlessness. The company is helmed by founder Sir Richard Branson, an entrepreneur famous for creating Virgin Records and the Virgin airline.

Similar to its first glide test on Oct. 10, the craft was cleanly released from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane with the pilots evaluating the stability and control of the craft.

"Excited to hear that VSS Enterprise has just landed after a second successful glide flight in Mojave today," Virgin Galactic tweeted.

All objectives of this second glide test were achieved, Scaled reported, with the SpaceShipTwo pilots evaluating handling and stability of the vehicle through several maneuvers ? expanding the experience of the craft beyond what was achieved on the first glide test.

More glide tests are on the books, part of "an aggressive flight test schedule," according to Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites. "The fun started on 10/10/10 and will continue as we reach our goal of passing onto our customer a spaceship capable to provide the space experience to thousands of adventurers," he noted shortly after the first glide test of SpaceShipTwo.

When operational, SpaceShipTwo will fly from the nearly completed Spaceport America in New Mexico. The rocketship ? powered to the edge of space by hybrid rocket motor ? is designed to carry six passengers and be flown by two pilots.

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Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazines and has written for SPACE.com since 1999.