April 15, 2013
Cold Flow Test Over Mojave Desert A Success For Virgin Galactic
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Virgin Galactic announced that SpaceShipTwo achieved a spectacular "Cold Flow" flight over the Mojave Desert today. The company was working on preparing the craft for its first powered flight, and it said its test objectives during this flight were successfully met.
During the test, Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port, carrying the SpaceShipTwo underneath. It rose to an altitude of about 50,000 feet before releasing the SpaceShipTwo, which will eventually be holding passengers one day for a trip to space. But for now, the rocket plane is in the testing phases, and today it experienced a 10.8-minute-long descent back to the runway.
For the first time in the air, the test teams from Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic accomplished the "Cold Flow" procedure, which is when oxidizer flows through the propulsion system and out through the nozzle at the rear of the vehicle.
"As well as providing further qualifying evidence that the rocket system is flight ready, the test also provided a stunning spectacle due to the oxidizer contrail and for the first time gave a taste of what SpaceShipTwo will look like as it powers to space," Virgin Galactic said in a statement.
The company said the first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo will be the most significant milestone to date. It will be the first time the spaceship has flown with all systems installed and fully operational. According to a report by Daily Tech, Virgin Galactic is looking for this flight to take place on April 22.
Virgin Galactic says that over 500 people have signed up for a suborbital space tour at $200,000 a seat. During this journey, the passengers will experience a few minutes of free-floating weightlessness. They will be lifted high enough to see the curvature of the Earth and the black sky of space at 359,040 feet high.
For comparison, Felix Baumgartner, who jumped from "the edge of space" last October, was only at 127, 852 feet when he leaped from his capsule and parachuted back to Earth safely.
Ashton Kutcher is actually one of the 500 people who have purchased a ticket from Virgin Galactic for flight.
“Our 500th future astronaut customer has just signed up! Even better news is that number 500 is Ashton Kutcher. I gave Ashton a quick call to congratulate and welcome him. He is as thrilled as we are at the prospect of being among the first to cross the final frontier (and back!) with us and to experience the magic of space for himself," said Richard Branson the famed owner of Virgin Galactic.