After the loss of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo more than two years ago, the first test flight for the company’s second SpaceShipTwo, called VSS Unity, carried a lot of hope and expectation with it. The SpaceShipTwo model is designed to carry two pilots and up to six passengers into space. Before the accident, commercial spaceflight had never seemed closer.
On December 3, Unity was carried aloft by Virgin’s WhiteKnightTwo and released at an altitude of 50,000 feet. Unity flew free for 10 minutes, making a steady descent back down to the ground. The flight was made light and slow, reaching only Mach 0.6 before pilots Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay brought her in for a safe and successful landing.
The new SpaceShipTwo was unveiled on February 19 of this year. It’s the first vehicle built by Virgin Galactic-owned manufacturer The Spaceship Company. This flight also marks the first time a vehicle built by The Spaceship Company has flown fully under its own control. Unity has been in the air prior to this, but only for captive carry flights.
VSS Unity has not yet reached the phase of testing where the first SpaceShipTwo was lost to a premature brake deployment during flight. It has a long and arduous testing program to pass before it will be ready to carry paying passengers on three-hour suborbital flights for the bargain price of $250,000 a ticket. That said, Virgin reports that early data from this flight is looking good.
Learn more at Virgin Galactic.