SpaceShipTwo returns to the skies

SS2 and WK2 taxi

SpaceShipTwo, attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane, taxies before takeoff on its latest test flight July 29. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

For the first time in more than six months, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flew on Tuesday, albeit not under rocket power. The vehicle made its 29th glide flight, with pilots Michael Masucci and Pete Siebold at the controls. Virgin didn’t disclose the purpose of the flight beyond being part of the company’s overal test program. “As the world’s first commercial spaceline, we’re committed to conducting a thorough test flight program” for SS2 and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, the company said in a tweet.

The flight was the first time SS2 flew since a glide flight on January 17, according to the flight test logs maintained by Scaled Composites. SS2 has made three powered test flights, most recently on January 10. Since then, the company has changed the fuel used in the hybrid rocket motor in SS2, switching from a rubber-based fuel to a nylon one.

There have also been a couple personnel additions at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC), the Virgin-owned venture that builds the vehicles. On July 24, Virgin announced it had hired a new pilot, Todd “Leif” Ericson, a former US Air Force test pilot. And on Wednesday, Virgin announced that former Scaled president Doug Shane is now the president of TSC. Shane joined TSC last year as executive vice president and general manager; the reason for the position change wasn’t indicated.

The release offered one other item about Virgin’s efforts: work on the second SS2 vehicle is now “roughly 50%” complete.

3 comments to SpaceShipTwo returns to the skies

  • Paul Scutts

    As all politicians know the worse case scenario is being perceived that you are not doing anything, so SpaceShipTwo has returned to the skies. The only people you are fooling VG are yourselves, to the public at large you are really starting to appear as a bunch of nervous virgins. Either light the thing up or stop pretending that you can get the job done.

  • It’s looking increasingly likely that the XCOR Lynx will beat the Virgins to space….

  • Neil

    Well, since they’ve installed fuel tanks in the wings perhaps they are determining the flight characteristics of the vehicle with these new loads. I wouldn’t light anything up until I’d made sure the thing wasn’t going to fall out of the sky due to a major design modification.
    That said, they’re continuing the spin and fooling a lot less than they used to.
    Do XCOR have anything actually flying yet?

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