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Virgin Galactic flexes Spaceshiptwo's unique feather mechanism

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SpaceShipTwo (SS2). Photo: MarsScientific.com and Clay Centre Observatory

MOJAVE, CALIFORNIA (BNS): Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, has successfully completed the second rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2).

The test flight conducted on Thursday demonstrated the vehicle's full technical mission profile in a single flight for the first time, including a high altitude deployment of the unique wing 'feathering' re-entry mechanism. All of the test objectives were successfully completed, Virgin Galactic said in a statement.

The company's WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft took off at approximately 8 a.m. local time from the Mojave Air and Space Port, carrying SS2 to an altitude of 46,000 feet with Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay at the WK2 controls.

Upon release from WK2, SS2 pilots Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols ignited the rocket motor for the planned 20-second burn propelling the spaceship to 69,000 feet.

During this time, SS2 achieved a maximum speed of Mach 1.43. SS2 and landed in Mojave at 9.25 a.m. local time completing the flight test with the pilots reporting a flawless flight, the statement said.

Virgin Galactic - owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, is now gearing up for commercial service in 2014.

"We couldn't be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts as we move toward a 2014 start of commercial service," said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson.

"It was particularly thrilling to see for the first time today the whole elegant system in action during a single flight, including the remarkable feathering re-entry system. It was this safety feature more than anything else that originally persuaded us that the overall design of the system was uniquely fit for purpose. Everything we have seen today just confirms that view..." he said.

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