SpaceShipTwo Fires Rocket

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Virgin Galactic's passenger-carrying suborbital space vehicle SpaceShipTwo successfully passed aerodynamic and powerplant tests on June 26, near Mojave, Calif. The vehicle performed its first successful glide since integration of its rocket motor systems. WhiteKnightTwo carried it to 51,000 feet over where it was released under the control of Scaled pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury. A chase plane carried Mike Melvill, who piloted the first private flight to space in SpaceShipOne. A second test fired the RM2 rocket system for a 55-second burn. According to Virgin Galactic, "All objectives were completed." Virgin Galactic plans to collect customers and VIPs for a special briefing, next month, and powered flight not too long thereafter.

Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (Virgin Galactic's manufacturing arm) is planning to gather its most important customers in July at the Farnborough International Air Show, 2012, for a presentation by founder Sir Richard Branson. Branson's venture aims to carry paying passengers six at a time on sub-orbital space flights. Each flight will allow passengers to experience an "out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience" along with some "astounding views." The development plan aims to see a powered flight by year-end. The FAA and NASA agreed earlier this month to work together to create standards for commercial space travel to low Earth orbit and to the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic offers different reservation options for future passengers. Full payment pricing includes a $200,000 deposit, "up front."