Last Friday, on April 12, SpaceShipTwo completed its first "cold flow" test. The test was designed to try the propulsion systems of the spacecraft without an actual trip to suborbital heights. This was accomplished by running oxidizer through the ship's propulsion system — without the presence of rocket fuel.
The result was a beautiful contrail of oxidizer streaming out from SpaceShipTwo's rear nozzle — a visual that proved in dramatic fashion just how ready Virgin Galactic is to bring commercial space flight to the world. That wonderful contrail of oxidizer, along with the mechanical success onboard SpaceShipTwo, is the proof officials needed to move SpaceShipTwo into the next, even more dramatic phase of testing: fully-powered flight.
According to Virgin Galactic:
"The upcoming first powered flight of SpaceshipTwo is in many ways the most significant milestone to date, being the first time that the spaceship has flown with all systems installed and fully operational."
Though Virgin Galactic isn't yet bringing us to the edge of space by the half-dozen, we now know approximately what it will look like when the service begins. And for us land-based dreamers, that just might be enough for right now.