Scaled Composites is pushing ahead with flight testing the SpaceShipOne after completing the second manned glide test of its X-Prize contender last month.

The Burt Rutan-led company tested the glide characteristics of the SpaceShipOne second-stage craft in the "feathered" wing configuration that will be used during atmospheric re-entry. The 27 August flight included stall investigations and envelope expansion out to 200kt (370km/h) and 4g manoeuvres.

Following separation of SpaceShipOne from the White Knight carrier aircraft at 48,200ft (14,700m) and 105kt, the aircraft achieved a full stall at 70kt equivalent airspeed at 19° angle of attack (AoA). Then the wing/tail was "jack-knifed" to the 65° feathered position, and the craft performed a stable descent for about 70s, at a 70° AoA and a peak descent rate in excess of 10,000ft/min (51m/s). Envelope expansion and roll characteristics investigation followed, and the 10min 30s flight concluded with a smooth touchdown at Runway 12 at Mojave, California, following a last-minute runway reselection during descent because of changing winds.

Scaled Composites says the next stage of testing will involve lighting SpaceShipOne's rocket engine for 15-30s, and then gradually increasing the engine firing duration to the 92s required for a suborbital flight to an altitude of 100km. To date, engine contractors Environmental Aeroscience and SpaceDev have demonstrated full-duration, full-thrust firings, says Scaled Composites.

Rutan said in June that he intends to achieve the first privately financed manned spaceflight within 12 months, but will not consider entering the X-Prize private rocket competition until a successful first suborbital flight is completed.

The X-Prize offers $10 million for two successful three-passenger flights to 100km altitude in a two-week period.

Source: Flight International