Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Reaches 82.7 Kilometers

SpaceShipTwo lands after a successful flight test. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

During a flight test today, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo burned its engine for 60 seconds and reached an altitude of 271,268 (51.37 miles/82.7 km), which put the vehicle into space for the first time according to one definition of the boundary.

Pilots C.J. Sturckow and Mark Stucky deployed the spacecraft’s feather system — twin tail booms that re-configure the ship for re-entry — after reaching a top speed of Mach 2.9. They glided the vehicle back to a safe landing on Runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California’s High Desert.

The flight culminated 14 years of work by Richard Branson’s space company, a period that saw a decade of delay and two fatal accidents that claimed four lives.

Branson and his son, Sam, were on hand in Mojave to watch the historic flight.  It was the fourth powered test for SpaceShipTwo Unity and the eighth of the program. SpaceShipTwo Enterprise broke up on its fourth flight test on Oct. 31, 2014.

Virgin Galactic plans to begin commercial service of the eight-seat suborbital spacecraft from Spaceport New Mexico after additional flight tests. Richard and Sam Branson  plan to be on the first commercial flight.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Congrats to all involved. In spite of all the flaws I still see in the program, hats off to Branson and crew for seeing it this far. Good luck to you all, and may 2019 be operational.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Are they still actively selling tickets?

  • crc2011

    Is there any video?

  • Bulldog

    Well deserved congratulations to the VirginGlactic team. Nothing about this is easy. Here’s to ironing out any wrinkles discovered during today’s flight, success in the remainder of the flight test program and that the transition to operational flights goes smoothly.

  • Robert G. Oler

    congrats to all involved…here is hoping for smooth flying in the future

  • Douglas Messier

    Working on it. My friend Ken Brown also got some great photos. Waiting to receive them.

  • Jeff Smith

    Congrats! Gotta love that view!

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    No, they are on hold until regular service starts. Expect those ticket prices to be like the out-year Obamacare premiums, higher.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    “2019 should see at least the New Shepard program turn on”

    Man I hope so. In my opinion, the NS test program has been pretty anemic. Just two test flights this year.