SpaceShipTwo glide flight a prelude to powered test flights

SS2 landing on 2014 Aug 28

SpaceShipTwo approaches the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port in California after its most recent test flight on August 28, 2014. (credit: Jason DiVenere/Scaled Composites)

Virgin Galactic flew SpaceShipTwo on Thursday, sending the suborbital vehicle on a glide flight above the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The purpose of the flight, according to a series of tweets from the company, was to perform a “cold flow” test of the vehicle’s propulsion system, running liquid oxidizer through the motor without igniting it. “As with all test flights, we’ll analyze the data in great detail before moving on,” the company said in one tweet, “but from the ground, it looked very successful.”

That test is likely to be one of the last before Virgin Galactic resumes powered test flights of the vehicle, using a new motor that the company announced in May. This glide flight, and one a month earlier, were the first flights for SpaceShipTwo since a powered test flight in early January and a glide flight later that month. The company called the flight an “important test” of the vehicle, “and a great dress rehearsal for our next powered flight, which is coming soon.”

In an interview with USA Today earlier this month, Sir Richard Branson suggested those powered test flights would be restarting within weeks. “We are now in the last few weeks before finally embarking on the space program,” he said in the interview, published August 17.

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