Posted at 01:40 PM ET, 05/19/2011

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo completes first ‘feathered’ flight (Video)


SpaceShipTwo flies in full feather wing mode May 4. (Virgin Galactic/Clay Center Observatory via Reuters)

Video showing the latest capabilities of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial spaceship, will surely excite any potential space tourists — and scare the living daylights out of anyone afraid of flying.

The SS2, which has completed seven glide flights since 2009, performed its first “feathered” flight over Mojave, Calif., on May 4. This configuration of the tail section helps with the ship’s reentry into the atmosphere.Video of the flight, released Wednesday, shows the SS2 being released from a carrier airplane at an altitude of 51,500 feet. The tail section of the vehicle was rotated to a 65-degree angle, creating a “shuttlecock-like drag” that allowed the SS2 to descend almost vertically to Earth. The tail was then returned to its normal position, and the ship glided to a stop on a Mojave runway.

But just because commercial space travel is quickly becoming possible doesn’t mean it’s affordable yet. According to Virgin Galactic’s Web site, a ticket will cost $200,000 for a two-hour flight that includes four minutes in space.

Watch the SS2’s “feathered” flight below:

By  |  01:40 PM ET, 05/19/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company