According to one observer of the craft’s rapid descent, “It dropped like a rock and went straight down. Typically, it takes 11 minutes to land, but this time it was only seven minutes before they were on the ground. It was a nail-biter … but that’s how you learn.”
George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive officer and president, said the glide flight included a third seat flight test engineer onboard SpaceShipTwo for the first time. “A good capability for us to have for this phase of test,” he told SPACE.com. “Yes, apparently the tails exhibited stall characteristics in the test — which was a steep nose down maneuver.”
Whitesides confirmed that SpaceShipTwo was ultimately able to carry out a nominal landing.
“Scaled is looking at the data now, but doesn’t anticipate any major issues,” Whitesides said. “This is why we flight test, to fully explore the aerodynamic flight envelope.”
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