With the third test flight of the Virgin Galactic SS2 this week, the company is closer to achieving the first commercial trip into space later this year.
The test-flight went incredibly well, and much data has been collected for fine-tuning future test flights.
The spacecraft took off from Mojave Air and Space Port (KMHV) on Friday carried by the carrier aircraft WhitKnightTwo (WK2). The tandem ride climbed to FL460. The SS2 was then released and after the rocket motor was ignited the craft reached 71,000ft and a speed of Mach 1.4.
This was the craft's highest altitude in testing so far. During the flight the RCS (maneuvering system) and the thermal protection coating were also tested.
The RCS system is commercially very important as this will allow for the spacecraft to be postitioned for optimal viewing conditions for the paying customers and also safe re-entry to planet Earth.
At 1/2 a million USD$ a trip you do not want unsatisfied customers or frazzled ones!