Virgin Galactic shows the spaceplane’s chemical rocket engine first launch was no fluke. The most recent test flight delivered the tourist-carrying space vehicle a bit closer to space with technicians now pouring over data files with a close watch to the next round of development.
During the first test flight, it was transported into the air by a mothership referred to as WhiteKnightTwo and launched at an altitude of 46,500 ft. Seconds later, its combination rocket engine was fired up for about 30 seconds to push the plane to about Mach 1.9 and an altitude of 84,271 ft.
The 2nd test flight played out quite equally but was a beginning to observe the patterns of the plane in a system that will more closely look like its final commercial design. Which means its center of gravity was purposely shifted backward similar to passenger seating and gear in the cabin.
The aircraft also flew higher this time, attaining an altitude of 114,500 ft. As outlined by the US Air Force requirements, space starts at 264,000 feet, but the Kármán range, at the height of 330,000 feet, is the most often used boundary line signifying the start of space. It is not clear which metric Virgin Galactic favors, but it eventually plans to transport paying travelers to suborbital altitudes later on.