SpaceShipTwo fires rocket engine in supersonic flight

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo fired its rocket motor in flight for the first time, hitting an altitude of 55,000 feet.

(Credit: Virgin Galactic/

If you’ve got $200,000 to spend on a ticket to suborbital space, your spaceship is nearly ready.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, billed as the world’s first commercial space plane, notched an important milestone today by firing its rocket engine during flight for the first time.

The test at Mojave Air and Space Port in California saw the passenger space plane detach from its dual-hull mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, at an altitude of 47,000 feet while being piloted by Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury of builder Scaled Composites.

The pair then ignited the rocket motor, which propelled the craft up to 55,000 feet. During the 16-second engine burn, SpaceShipTwo went supersonic, hitting Mach 1.2.

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