SpaceShipTwo Conducts Successful Glide Flight

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

It’s funny. You see the most interesting things driving into Mojave sometimes. Driving in on Highway 14 this morning, I saw that WhiteKnightTwo was down at the end of the runway, as I had expected. I new a flight was planned, so I got up early.

Then I noticed it seemed to be getting bigger and a whole bunch of dust getting kicked up. Hey! That thing’s taking off. So, I pulled over to the side of the road and snapped a few photos as it flew overhead.

Takeoff! (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Takeoff! (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo are pretty amazing vehicles to look at. You don’t get tired of watching them take off.

For this flight, I decided to drive up to Koehn Lake, which is a dry lake bed that’s probably 20 miles or so north of Mojave. I figured it would be a good spot to try to get some photos of the drop.

It would have been, had my camera been cooperation. But, it picked a fine time to go not cooperate with me. I did get a few shots of the release with my cell phone.

SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo was venting something, but I saw no flames nor did I hear the rumbling across the desert that accompanies a powered flight. It was fairly silent out there, except for the distant drone of WhiteKnightTwo’s engine. [UPDATE: Virgin Galactic confirms that the test was a cold flow of gasses used in  powered flight.]

Virgin Galactic Tweeted that it was “an in-flight test of #SpaceShipTwo’s ‘plumbing’ – the pressurization system for the rocket motor.” It’s also a dress rehearsal for the next powered flight, which the company promises is “coming soon.”

That flight will likely come in September. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Vladislaw

    Does SS2 have the new engine installed for this drop?

  • windbourne

    Good luck to SS2.
    Private space really needs this to happen.

  • Chris Courtois

    “SpaceshipTwo was venting something”
    Hey if it’s venting something odds are it has its full systems installed and if this program is making sense they’ve got the new motor installed for sure, otherwise I’d really be wondering what they did for half a year over there 😉

  • Robert Gishubl

    Thanks for the update.
    I hope they can pick up the pace with several glide and feather tests with the new engine and then light that candle.
    Any news on engine testing?

  • Richard

    VG have confirmed on twitter that it was a cold flow test, so that basically means that the engine must be fully installed. They were probably testing the new methane and helium tanks / plumbing as well as the primary no2 needed for the new nylon engine. Let’s hope it all went well and we can see it flying under power in the near future.

  • Douglas Messier

    I saw SS2 the day before it flew. There was a pipe sticking out the back of the vehicle. I did not see a nozzle installed.So, my guess is they were testing tank pressurization and flow. The nozzle and the sold-fuel casing are a single unit, by the way. If they were installed, I think it would be hard to conduct a cold flow. The gases would flow right into the solid-fuel casing.

    VG doesn’t seem to want to show it only had a pipe in back of the vehicle. If you look at all the photos released from the test flight, I haven’t found one yet that shows the back of SS2.

  • Richard

    Thanks Doug, your insight is always great to hear. Do you have any idea how they compensate for the changes in CG when they fly in that mode without the solid fuel casing? Do they stick in a dummy casing?

  • Douglas Messier

    I don’t know exactly how they handle it.

  • Christopher James Huff

    “If they were installed, I think it would be hard to conduct a cold flow. The gases would flow right into the solid-fuel casing.”

    Why would that be a problem? It’s not like it’s a hypergolic combination.

  • disqusser10157

    They’ve been a year away from passenger flights for what, almost a decade? This is getting old, in both sense of the word.