Breaking news from space.com indicates Spaceship One, the private reusable X-prize contender from Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, has just accomplished a second rocket-powered flight. The first powered flight was conducted December 17th, on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight.
The first time around, the hybrid rocket was turned on for only 15 seconds, and brought the vehicle up about 20,000 feet from the release altitude (48,000 ft) with a maximum speed of Mach 1.2. The power was turned on for 40 seconds on this most recent flight, reportedly lifting the craft over 50,000 feet with a maximum speed over Mach 2. To win the X-prize, the craft will have to reach the edge of space at 100 km or about 330,000 ft altitude; a top speed of about Mach 3 is expected; given past history it looks like it’ll be a couple more months of testing before they’re ready to claim the prize.
As has been widely reported, the FAA just yesterday announced the company had been granted a license for expanded flight testing.