Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity yesterday completed its second successful, supersonic, rocket-powered test flight. Richard Branson joined the team on the Mojave Air and Space Port flight line to witness the flight.
The focus of the latest flight was to expand Virgin’s understanding of the spaceship’s supersonic handling characteristics and control system’s performance with vehicle parameters that were closer to the ultimate commercial configuration.
This involved shifting the vehicle’s centre of gravity rearward via the addition of passenger seats and related equipment. The rocket motor burned for the planned 31 seconds and propelled Unity to a speed of Mach 1.9 and an altitude of 114,500 ft. As will be the case for future commercial flights, Unity’s unique re-entry feathering system was deployed for the initial descent before the final glide home to a smooth runway landing.
The latest flight comes less than two months after Unity’s first rocket powered flight.
Richard Branson said: “It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space. Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realising our goals. Congratulations to the whole team!”
He added: “Today we saw VSS Unity in her natural environment, flying fast under rocket power and with a nose pointing firmly towards the black sky of space. The pathway that Unity is forging is one that many thousands of us will take over time, and will help share a perspective that is crucial to solving some of humanity’s toughest challenges on planet Earth.”
The teams will now conduct flight data review for this flight and continue planning preparations for the next flight.