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SpaceShipTwo makes a spectacle of itself in “Cold Flow” test


April 15, 2013

SpaceShipTwo producing an oxidizer contrail in a "Cold Flow" test flight (Photo: MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory)

SpaceShipTwo producing an oxidizer contrail in a "Cold Flow" test flight (Photo: MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory)

Just a week after the first in-flight venting of its nitrous system, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has made an even more spectacular step on the way to its first powered flight. The craft's 25th glide flight on April 12 saw oxidizer flow through the craft’s propulsion system and expelled through the nozzle at its rear in what is known as a “Cold Flow” procedure.

This was the first time the test has been conducted in flight, with the resulting oxidizer contrail creating a stunning spectacle in the skies above the Mojave Desert. Virgin Galactic says the flight provided the first taste of what SpaceShipTwo will actually look like as it makes its way to space.

Aside from the impressive visual display, the company says the successful “Cold Flow” test indicates that the system is flight ready. Actually igniting the rocket is all that remains to complete the profile of the upcoming first powered flight.

With that impending flight to be the first time that the spacecraft will be flown with all systems installed and operational, Virgin Galactic says that in many ways it will be the most significant milestone to date. The company was initially aiming to conduct the first powered flight by the end of 2012, but looks on track to achieve this within the coming months.

Source: Virgin Galactic

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

To Boldly go, in a way no human has gone up before... that is one sweet looking bird...

Michiel Mitchell

I never got my concord ride maybe I'll be able to afford this before it's retired.


Has anyone considered that the earth is a closed system and every time an earth sourced vehicle leaves the atmosphere that is another little bit of the closed system that just left.

Nick Hill

re; Nick Hill

Meteors fall to earth all the time so it is not a closed system.


We absorb and re-radiate tremendous amounts of energy (most forms) every second of every day... There is nothing closed about our system. With that said, nothing from SpaceShipTwo will leave our pico-system save maybe a tiny fraction of infrared from the actual burn.

Go Rutan, Go!

Simons Engineering

Earth is a closed system. Well, does that include 1000 watts per square meter of the Sun's energy (depending on how we measure it) that we get bombarded with when it's a nice day? Is that included in your closed system? We could launch 1,000,000 rockets a day and it would be utterly irrelevant. One big volcano is more pollution than all of mankind and the Earth just laughs it off.

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