This is another step towards Space Traveling. Virgin Galactic has successful tested its SpaceShipTwo (SS2, named VSS Enterprise) capability (for the first time) to execute the Feathered configuration for re-entry.
This “shuttlecock” position or feathered configuration, where the wings tilted 65 degrees to increase the drag during the re-entry, is to ensure the safest way that the SS2 can re-enter Earth. Here is a description of what happen.
After a 45 minute climb to the desired altitude of 51,500 feet, SS2 was released cleanly from VMS Eve and established a stable glide profile before deploying, for the first time, its re-entry or “feathered” configuration by rotating the tail section of the vehicle upwards to a 65 degree angle to the fuselage. It remained in this configuration with the vehicle’s body at a level pitch for approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds whilst descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute, slowed by the powerful shuttlecock-like drag created by the raised tail section. At around 33,500 feet the pilots reconfigured the spaceship to its normal glide mode and executed a smooth runway touch down, approximately 11 minutes and 5 seconds after its release from VMS Eve.
And this beautiful video captured by telescopic cameras (watch the feather at 1:47).