Virgin Galactic Crash Blamed On Single Human Error
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On 7 December 2009, SpaceShipTwo was unveiled at the Mojave Spaceport. Branson told the 300 people attending, each of whom had booked rides at $200,000 each, that flights would begin “in 2011”. However, in April 2011, Branson announced further delays, saying “I hope 18 months from now, we’ll be sitting in our spaceship and heading off into space”. By February 2012, SpaceShipTwo had completed 15 test flights attached to White Knight Two, and an additional 16 glide tests, the last of which took place in September 2011. A rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo took place on 29 April 2013, with an engine burn of 16 seconds duration. The brief flight began at an altitude of 47,000 feet, and reached a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. While the SS2 achieved a speed of Mach 1. 2 (920 mph), this was less than half the 2,000 mph speed predicted by Richard Branson. SpaceShipTwo's second supersonic flight achieved a speed of 1,100 mph for 20 seconds; while this was an improvement, it fell far short of the 2,500 mph for 70 seconds required to carry six passengers into space. However, Branson still announced his spaceship would be capable of "launching 100 satellites every day".