Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, dubbed VSS Unity, efficiently glided via its first free-flying test run right this moment. The flight comes greater than two years after the first SpaceShipTwo broke up during a rocket-powered test.
The hybrid rocket engine wasn’t switched on for right this moment’s trial within the skies above California’s Mojave Desert. As an alternative, VSS Unity was set unfastened by its WhiteKnightTwo provider airplane at a peak of tens of hundreds of toes, and winged its approach again to the Mojave Air and House Port.
Test pilot Mark “Forger” Stucky and Virgin Galactic’s chief pilot, Dave Mackay, had been on the controls in Unity’s cockpit. Mike Masucci and Todd Ericson piloted WhiteKnightTwo, with Dustin Mosher as flight engineer. Virgin Galactic reported that the crew was “secure and sound” after “a profitable first glide test flight.”
“It’s a cheerful day to be right here,” Branson mentioned in a video captured by Messier earlier than WhiteKnightTwo took off. “We’ve obtained an thrilling yr forward, and that is simply the beginning of it.”
The flight, which examined the craft’s basic efficiency and dealing with qualities, represents a milestone on the highway to suborbital area journeys. Virgin Galactic had already carried out 4 captive-carry aerodynamic checks, however throughout these flights, VSS Unity stayed firmly hooked up to WhiteKnightTwo.
After additional rounds of glide flights, Virgin Galactic is because of transfer on to rocket-powered flights that progressively push the envelope, main as much as test runs that cross the boundary of outer area (50 miles, in keeping with U.S. Air Power requirements; 62 miles, in keeping with worldwide requirements).
It was throughout a powered test flght in October 2014 that the first SpaceShipTwo, generally known as VSS Enterprise, broke up. Co-pilot Mike Alsbury was killed within the catastrophe, and pilot Pete Siebold suffered critical accidents. A federal investigation attributed the failure to pilot error as well as a number of shortcomings in design and coaching. Virgin Galactic says these shortcomings have been addressed.
About 700 would-be area passengers have already put down as a lot as $250,000 every to order seats on VSS Unity. The shift to industrial operations at New Mexico’s Spaceport America depends upon how the test program goes, however Branson has mentioned he intends to be on the first passenger flight.