SpaceShipTwo Performs Glide Test, Rocket Firing
July 5, 2012 - Virgin Galactic reports that SpaceShipTwo (SS2) performed another successful glide flight test on June 26 - the first since integration of rocket motor systems. That same day the spaceship's engine, RocketMotorTwo (RM2), underwent a successful full-duration test fire, marking the first test flight/test firing on the same day.
"Since receiving an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration in May for SpaceShipTwo and its carrier vehicle, WhiteKnightTwo, there has been a rapid escalation of test activity," said George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic. "In that timeframe, we've had seven successful test flights and three full-scale rocket motor tests. We are on track for powered flight by the end of 2012."
Prime contractor Scaled Composites performed the flight after release from mothership WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) at 51,000 feet. Scaled pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury were at SS2 controls, with Scaled test pilot Mark Stucky, David Mackay, and Virgin Galactic's chief pilot flying WK2. Mike Melvill flew chase with Virgin Galactic pilot Keith Colmer.
The RM2 firing took place by Sierra Nevada Space Systems at Scaled Composites' test site in Mojave, California. The 55-second test was the 13th full-scale flight design RM2 hot fire. All objectives were completed. In addition to this test, on June 20 a full-scale RM2 test firing took place for the first time under full direction of the spaceship's Rocket Motor Controller. This firing provided an end-to-end test of the rocket motor systems - a critical step in preparation for powered flight.