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Friday, Apr 12 2013 08:00 PM

Virgin SpaceShipTwo aces 2nd flight test

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    By Bill Deaver

    SpaceShipTwo glides past the faraway moon on its way to an unpowered landing at Mojave Air & Space Port recently. Virgin Galactic hopes to begin powered test flights later this year.

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

MOJAVE AIR & SPACE PORT -- History continues to be made in the skies above the Mojave Desert.

According to a series of Twitter posts and a late-afternoon news release, Virgin Galactic on Friday chalked up yet another successful test flight of SpaceShipTwo, the rocketplane being developed in eastern Kern County. The six-passenger, two-crew vessel may indeed be the first in history to carry paying passengers into suborbital space, as early as 2014.

"The test objectives were successfully met, advancing another important step towards powered flight," the release said.

In preparation for SpaceShipTwo's first powered flight, the test teams from Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic completed what they called a "profile" of the upcoming powered flight without actually igniting the rocket.

For the first time in flight, oxidizer was flowed through the propulsion system and out through the nozzle at the rear of the vehicle, accomplishing what is called a "cold-flow" procedure, the release noted.

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.

The apparent success comes on the heels of another test last week that included nitrous venting and further testing of SpaceShipTwo's innovative feathering system, which dramatically changes the position of the wings during re-entry for increased stability and safety.

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