Virgin Galactic has completed a flight test of a company-built manned space vehicle carrying four NASA technology experiments to suborbital space.
The agency said Thursday SpaceShipTwo‘s payloads were designed to examine the behavior of dust particles on planetary surfaces, the effects of microgravity on life support systems and plant growth, and vibration during launch, re-entry and landing of the spacecraft.
SpaceShipTwo also carried two astronaut pilots as part of the mission. They will receive Commercial Astronaut Wings recognition from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2019.
New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic launched its spacecraft in support of NASA's Flight Opportunities program.
The agency looks to conduct further flight demonstrations with the four payloads to gather additional data and mature new technologies.
“The anticipated addition of SpaceShipTwo to a growing list of commercial vehicles supporting suborbital research is exciting,“ said Ryan Dibley, Flight Opportunities campaign manager at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center.
“Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,“ Dibley added.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said the company plans to test the spacecraft with increased speed and altitude as well as longer motor burn as part of the final portion of its flight test program.