Virgin Galactic Stages Second Powered Flight of SpaceShipTwo

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WASHINGTON — Virgin Galactic on Sept. 5 staged the second powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane, firing the craft’s hybrid rocket engine for 20 seconds and, for the first time, testing its movable wings in a demonstration of the feathered flight maneuver that will slow the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere from the edge of space.

The flight began at 7 a.m. local time, when SpaceShipTwo and its carrier plane, WhiteKnightTwo, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., and climbed to about 14 kilometers. The test ended — successfully, according to Virgin’s Sept. 5 press release — at 8:25 a.m., when SpaceShipTwo touched down on the runway. 

SpaceShipTwo, once dropped from its mothership, reached an altitude of about 21 kilometers, Virgin said in its press release. The company, which has booked more than 600 tickets at $250,000 apiece, plans to begin flying paying customers to the edge of space from New Mexico’s Spaceport America in 2014. 

Virgin Galactic was created by Virgin Group chairman and founder Richard Branson. The company is bankrolled by Virgin and Dubai’s sovereign investment fund, aabar Investments PJS.