Video: The first captive carry test of VSS Unity
Virgin Galactic recently released a video discussing the path traveled in getting VSS Unity ready for flight testing. This video, titled “Elevating Unity – Episode 1: Captive Carry”, showcases The Spaceship Company and Virgin Galactic preparing for and conducting the first captive carry test the vehicle.
The video is narrated by Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic’s senior vice president of operations. He explains the flight and shows how it fits into the whole test program of SpaceShipTwo.
On Sept. 8, 2016, WhitKnightTwo, with VSS Unity mated underneath, rolled onto the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California and took to the skies. Both vehicles were crewed.
Unity remained attached to WhiteKnightTwo the entire flight. The maximum altitude achieved for this flight was about 50,000 feet (15,240 meters). Total flight time was 3 hours 43 minutes.
“Staying mated to WhiteKnightTwo lets us really take advantage of a ‘flying wind tunnel’,” Moses said in the video. “We can test all the aero-surfaces.”
Moses said that by being at high-altitude the craft experiences really low pressure and cold temperatures – both conditions SpaceShipTwo will experience in space – and engineers want to make sure the vehicle’s systems can handle those conditions. He said while engineers have done what it takes to start flight testing, they want to focus on what will allow the vehicle to “live a lifetime”.
“It’s not just 10 or 20 or 100 flight tests, it’s a thousand flights of commercial service,” Moses said. “It really is, at the end of the day, a hand-built spaceship. There’s a lot of care and love and sweat and even tears that go into making this spaceship.”
Video courtesy of Virgin Galactic
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor.