Virgin Galactic's private SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecrafthas completed its second glide test at the Mojave Air and Space Port inCalifornia.
The sleek vehicle built by Mojave-based Scaled Compositeswas lifted off the ground Oct. 28 by its huge WhiteKnightTwo mothership. Inmidair, the craft was released and completed a nearly 11-minute glide under thecontrols of Scaled Composites test pilot Mark Stucky and copilot Mike Alsbury.
The spacecraft is Virgin Galactic's bid to carry spacetourists to suborbital space for a brief view of the Earth below and a fewminutes 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 firstglide test on Oct. 10, the craft was cleanly released from theWhiteKnightTwo carrier plane with the pilots evaluating the stability andcontrol of the craft.
"Excited to hear that VSS Enterprise has just landedafter a second successful glide flight in Mojave today," Virgin Galactictweeted.
All objectives of this second glide test were achieved,Scaled reported, with the SpaceShipTwo pilots evaluating handling and stabilityof the vehicle through several maneuvers ? expanding the experience of thecraft beyond what was achieved on the firstglide test.
More glide tests are on the books, part of "anaggressive flight test schedule," according to Burt Rutan, founder ofScaled Composites. "The fun started on 10/10/10 and will continue as wereach our goal of passing onto our customer a spaceship capable to provide thespace experience to thousands of adventurers," he noted shortly after thefirst glide test of SpaceShipTwo.
When operational, SpaceShipTwo will fly from the nearlycompleted SpaceportAmerica in New Mexico. The rocketship ? powered to the edge of space byhybrid rocket motor ? is designed to carry six passengers and be flown by twopilots.
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Leonard David has been reporting on the space industryfor more than five decades. He is past editor-in-chief of the National SpaceSociety's Ad Astra and Space World magazines and has written for SPACE.comsince 1999.