Virgin Galactic has completed its third test flight for the spacecraft that will eventually take commercial passengers into space. The flying machine is called SpaceShip Two. The craft was carried aloft by its White Knight Two carrier aircraft to an altitude of 46,000 feet.
Once the carrier aircraft reached that altitude, SpaceShip Two was released and ignited its hybrid rocket engine. That hybrid rocket engine delivered 60,000 pounds of thrust and pushed SpaceShip Two to a personal record for height and speed.
The craft reached an altitude of 71,000 feet and a top speed higher than Mach 1.4 during the 20 second firing of the engine. The purpose of this test flight was to gather more details on transonic and supersonic flight for the craft. This was also the first flight for a set of new thrusters fitted to the aircraft.
Those thrusters will be used to keep SpaceShip Two on course and under pilot control in space. The flight test also used a new coating on the tail of the aircraft to reflect heat from the rocket engine. SpaceShip Two is set to make its first commercial flight in 2014.