January 13, 2014 – A third supersonic test of the sub-orbital SpaceShip Two was completed last Friday without a hitch. Flying at Mach 1.4, SpaceShip Two fired its rocket motor for 20 seconds and achieved an altitude of 21,641 meters (71,000 feet).
On this test not only was the rocket engine given a chance to prove its robustness, but also the feathering wing structure was tested as well. This is a unique feature of SpaceShip Two where the twin tails tilt during descent to minimize heat from atmospheric friction. A new reflective thermal coating passed scrutiny as well.
At 21,641 meters SpaceShip Two is still some 60,000 meters (194,000 feet) short of its ultimate flight goal – space itself. Virgin Galactic is expected to begin commercial flights later this year.