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Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo Aces New Supersonic Flight

Of the three geeks with money racing to reach space – Musk, Bezos, and Branson – only one had to steer around a tragedy that might have ended his dreams.
WhiteKnightTwo carrying SpaceShipTwo 8 photos
Richard Branson one step closer to spaceRichard Branson one step closer to spaceRichard Branson one step closer to spaceRichard Branson one step closer to spaceRichard Branson one step closer to spaceRichard Branson one step closer to spaceRichard Branson one step closer to space
The 2014 catastrophic in-flight breakup of the SpaceShipTwo that killed the vehicle’s pilot did not deter Branson from pursuing his dream of making space flight commercially available. The fact that the crash was due to pilot error, and not to a design flaw, might have contributed to him continuing his efforts.

The crashed SpaceShipTwo was called VSS Enterprise. The second one, VSS Unity, is currently undergoing testing and on Monday it successfully completed its second powered flight.

The scope of the mission was to test the ship’s handling at supersonic speeds, as well as the checking the control system’s performance while using the craft in a configuration close to the final commercial version.

The ship used its rocket power to reach supersonic speeds. The flight lasted for 31 seconds and the top speed reached was Mach 1.9 at a maximum altitude of 114,500 feet (35 km).

“It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space,” Branson said in a statement.

“Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realizing our goals. Congratulations to the whole team!”

SpaceShipTwo is a space-capable ship that launches horizontally at 50,000 feet (15 km) from the underbelly of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier. This maneuver allows the ship to bypass the denser regions of the atmosphere and save fuel and money.

The ship has a capacity of six passengers and two crew and comes as a bullet-shaped cylinder measuring 60 feet in length (18 meters).

Last week, Branson told various media outlets he expects to be taking the first ride to space himself in the following months.

 
 
 
 
 

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