Virgin Galactic VSS Unity suborbital spacecraft activated after a successful test flight on May 29, 2018.
Credit: Virgin Galactic via Twitter
Virgin Galactic's latest spacecraft has reached the sky again.
The suborbital SpaceShipTwo vehicle, known as VSS Unity, completed its second test flight over the California Mojave Desert today (May 29).
"The focus of today's flight was to broaden our understanding of the supersonic handling characteristics of the spacecraft and the performance of the control system with vehicle parameters closer to the final commercial configuration," Virgin Galactic said in a statement. "For this purpose, the center of gravity of the vehicle had to be shifted to the rear with additional passenger seats and appropriate equipment." [Virgin Galactic̵
During the flight, they added: VSS Unity fired its rocket motor for 31 seconds as planned, reaching a maximum speed of Mach 1.9 and a maximum altitude of 114,500 feet (34,900 meters). (Mach 1 is the speed of sound, which is about 767 mph or 1,235 km / h at sea level.)
The SpaceShipTwo with two aircraft and six passengers is called by a carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, and then hoisted from a height of about 50,000 Foot (15,000 m) dropped. The spacecraft then attacks aboard its rocket engine to blow itself up.
Today's mission was the 13th flight in total for VSS Unity, which was unveiled in February 2016. Four are "captive-carry" tests, in which the spacecraft remained stuck at WhiteKnightTwo, and seven were not propelled "gliding flights". The other test flight took place on 5 April.
This was a big milestone for Virgin Galactic; It was the first motorized mission since October 31, 2014, when the company's previous SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise, broke apart in mid-flight. The tragic accident killed co-driver Michael Alsbury and severely injured pilot Peter Siebold.
Investigators later found that a design problem unlocked Alsbury's SpaceShipTwo "suspension" descent system prematurely. Engineers raised this issue before they built VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic officials said.
The only people aboard the Unity during today's flight were pilots Dave Mackay and Mark "Forger" Stucky. But the vehicle could already fly this year, if the test campaign continues to run well, said representatives of Virgin Galactic. Company founder Sir Richard Branson said he plans to make the vehicle's first commercial flight.
"Today we saw VSS Unity in its natural environment, flying fast with rocket propulsion and pointing with a nose towards the black sky of space," Branson, who was on the ground today on the spacecraft's flight path, said in the same statement ,
"The way Unity is forging is a path many thousands of us will take, and it will help share a perspective that is crucial to solving some of the most challenging human challenges on the planet," he added.
Tickets SpaceShipTwo for sale currently for $ 250,000 apiece. The passengers will experience weightlessness for a few minutes, and during their suborbital voyage, will be able to see the curvature of the earth against the blackness of outer space.
But unity will not just be about tourist jumpers; The vehicle will also fly a variety of scientific experiments into space and back.