A shinier SpaceShipTwo takes to the skies, with a powered flight “soon”

SS2 with Kapton

SpaceShipTwo landing after a December 11, 2013 glide flight. The inboard surfaces of the vehicle’s vertical stabilizer are covered with Kapton to help regulate their temperature. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic announced yesterday that SpaceShipTwo (SS2) performed an unpowered test flight yesterday while stating again that it would soon perform another powered test flight. The flight, the first for SS2 since its second powered flight on September 5 (according to Scaled Composites’s flight log), appeared to be a routine glide test that featured a test of SS2’s nitrous dump system. SS2 also sported a new look, with reflective Kapton material on the inboard surfaces of the vehicle’s vertical stabilizers, which Virgin said is intended to help the vehicle better manage temperatures (presumably from the exhaust of the vehicle’s hybrid rocket motor.) Parabolic Arc first reported the addition of the material on Tuesday.

Virgin documented the flight in some tweets, a sampling of which are below:

Note in one of the tweets that Virgin says the next powered flight is “coming up soon.” Exactly what constitutes “soon” is unclear: In mid-October, Virgin president Steve Isakowitz said a powered flight was coming up “very soon.” In early November, company CEO George Whitesides said the next powered test was “about a month away… maybe a little less.”

[ Note: post corrected to property identify the vehicle surfaces covered in Kapton. ]

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