SpaceShipTwo’s second powered flight this morning was successful, with the first feather test under power. Still waiting on details from Virgin Galactic concerning burn time, altitude and other factors. The company Tweeted, “Hit our planned duration, altitude, and speed.”
UPDATE: Branson said on his blog that SpaceShipTwo was released at an altitude of 46,000 feet and then burned the hybrid engine for 20 seconds, soaring to an altitude of 69,000 feet and reaching a speed of Mach 1.43.
The main progress with this test is that we deployed the full expansion (up and down) of the feather mechanism at a high altitude, alongside testing the rocket motor performance. This feather mechanism was the key innovation that enabled us to get into the space program in the first place. It acts like a giant shuttlecock and slows the spaceship up as it comes back into the earth’s atmosphere.