In Brief

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Ignites Rocket Motor in Flight for 1st Time

Virgin Galactic Test Flight, April 29, 2013
WhiteKnightTwo carries SpaceShipOne on the runway before a test flight, April 29, 2013, in Mohave, CA. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic (via Twitter as @virgingalactic))

UPDATE: Read our full story on today's landmark test flight here: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Makes History with 1st Rocket-Powered Flight

New  Gallery: Photos: Virgin Galactic's 1st SpaceShipTwo Powered Flight Test

VideoSpaceShipTwo Rises On A Tail Of Fire

Wannabe space tourists rejoice! The private suborbital spacecraft SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic has lit its rocket engines for the first time in flight. This marks the long-awaited first "powered test flight" for the vehicle, which is designed to carry paying passengers on quick jaunts to the edge of space and back for $200,000 a ride.

"For the 1st time ever, SS2 has lit her rocket engine in flight! A major milestone in human spaceflight. Photos, video, and details to follow," Virgin Galactic officials wrote on Twitter today. SpaceShipTwo was carried aloft from a runway at California's Mojave Air and Spaceport this morning (April 29) by the carrier mothership WhiteKnightTwo. The mothership released SpaceShipTwo in midair at an altitude of about 47,000 feet (14,300 meters), and the smaller vehicle then test fired its rocket engine, designed to propel the craft of the rest of the way up to space.

Virgin Galactic is backed by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who wrote about his excitement this morning on Twitter: "Occasionally you have days that are ridiculously exciting. Today is such a day."

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.