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Liftoff! Orion Successfully Launches For Pivotal Test Flight

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orion-test-flightI got goosebumps watching Orion liftoff today at dawn. This is it, people, this is the future of American spaceflight. It’s surreal watching the spacecraft that may someday take people to Mars—the mid-2030s, says NASA—liftoff and leave Earth behind.

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Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two Makes Third (And Highest) Test Flight

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Virgin GalacticThe Virgin Galactic doubters are eating their words after their soon-to-be low-Earth orbit spaceship made its third successful test flight on Friday. Each test flight has reached higher altitudes, with Friday’s flight making it 71,000 feet above the Mojave Desert.

Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two airplane carried the six-passenger spaceship between its hulls to just over 45,000 feet and then released it, leaving the spaceship to use its impressive rocket motor to keep on soaring. The rocket burn lasted 20 seconds, achieving Mach 1.4. That part of the flight lasted 10 minutes, and the two pilots had landed the plane safely in the desert within an hour. Chief pilot David Mackay said that the craft “flew brilliantly.” Virgin Galactic happily tweeted the news, along with some pretty awesome photos.