Whitehorn Predicts SpaceShipTwo Test Flights into Space Next Year

Gear down. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

Private SpaceShipTwo Heads for New Territory

Whitehorn said more SpaceShipTwo glide tests are in the offing. Those tests will include a high-altitude drop of the craft that will allow the pilots to feather and unfeather the SpaceShipTwo’s novel, care-free tail section used during the fall back into Earth’s atmosphere. This configuration allows a “hands-off” re-entry to Earth and greatly reduces aerodynamic and thermal loads on the craft.

These tests will be followed by attachment of the spaceplane’s hybrid rocket motor.

“There will be very short firings of the motor, and then we’ll extend those burns and we’ll start climbing into space,” Whitehorn told SPACE.com. “I think we can pretty safely say now that we’ll be in space in 2011. It’s taken a little bit longer. But the point is that it has been done safely.”

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