Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital spacecraft, has made its first glide flight with its hybrid rocket engine installed.
The spacecraft was dropped on 19 December from its dedicated carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, over the test range at Mojave, California, where both vehicles are constructed by The Spaceship Company. SpaceShipTwo has been on the ground since August for rocket integration.
Subsonic aerodynamic testing was completed in the previous round of tests, said company CEO and president George Whitesides in an October interview, but one or more additional glide flights are necessary before igniting the motor.
The 19 December glide test indicates a high level of maturity in the spacecraft and its unique engine, RocketMotorTwo, which is fueled by a combination of nitrous oxide and hydroxyl-terminated polybutidiene.
Virgin Galactic was unavailable for immediate comment.