Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites successfully conducted their first rocket-powered flight of SpaceShipTwo early Monday morning April 29 in the skies over the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif. Piloted by Scaled Composites test pilot and former NASA Dryden research pilot Mark "Forger" Stucky and Scaled co-pilot Mike Alsbury, the VSS Enterprise was released from its White Knight II launch aircraft at about 47,000 feet altitude, rocketing upward to about 55,000 feet altitude and a speed of Mach 1.2 – about 800 mph – during a brief 16-second firing of its rocket engine. Although SpaceShipTwo is primarily intended for the public space tourism market, Virgin Galactic also plans to use the craft for carrying scientific experiments into sub-orbital space, including flight tests of developmental space-access technology payloads for NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. (MarsScientific.com / Clay Center Observatory photo)
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