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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo completes 'Cold Flow' test

Commercial space travel has come closer to reality with the successful completion of the 'Cold Flow' flight test of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo spacecraft.

The flight test was conducted above the Mojave Desert, California on April 12, Virgin Galactic announced.

During the 'Cold Flow' test procedure, an oxidizer passes through the craft's propulsion system and gets expelled through the nozzle at the rear of the vehicle. The space plane was flown high into the sky by WhiteKnightTwo, its carrier aircraft. After being released from the plane, SpaceShipTwo glided smoothly back to the ground, leaving a contrail of white streak above the Mojave Desert.

“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 commercial spaceflight company is expected to conduct a full flight test, igniting the rocket in the air in the coming days. The company has not yet released an expected date for a powered test flight.

"The upcoming first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo is in many ways the most significant milestone to date, being the first time that the spaceship has flown with all systems installed and fully operational," Virgin Galactic officials wrote.

Virgin Galactic is a company within British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group which plans to provide private trips to space.

SpaceShipTwo has a room for two crew and six passengers. Space tourists will have to shell out USD 200,000 to experience approximately six minutes of weightlessness during what will be a two-hour end-to-end flight.

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