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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo reaches space from New Mexico

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity coasts toward apogee after its first spaceflight from New Mexico's Spaceport America. Credit: Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity coasts toward apogee after its first spaceflight from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. Credit: Virgin Galactic

On May 22, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo completed its third crewed test flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The first-ever human spaceflight from New Mexico for the company also represents the third state to date launching people to space.

The successful launch of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, on Saturday is just another necessary step and achievement toward the start of the company’s commercial operations from the spaceport.

After VSS Unity was released from its mothership, VMS Eve, at 11:26 a.m. EDT (15:26 UTC), the spacecraft fired its engine for about a minute to reach a speed of about Mach 3. It then coasted upward on a suborbital trajectory to reach a maximum altitude of 55.45 miles (89.2 kilometers), just above the U.S.-defined threshold of space, before making its way back to Earth for a smooth landing on a runway at Spaceport America as planned.

The crewmembers on VSS Unity were CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay, with Kelly Latimer and Michael Masucci on deck for VMS Eve. In celebration of the inaugural flight from New Mexico, the Zia Sun Symbol of the state flag was emblazoned on the exterior of the spacecraft in recognition of the space base.

During the flight, Virgin Galactic was able to accomplish a number of scientific experiments and collect data needed for future missions including two final verification reports for the Federal Aviation Administration required as part of the company’ s current reusable spacecraft license. The company also tested upgrades on the horizontal stabilizers and flight controls for the spaceship.

Also on board were revenue-generating scientific research experiments as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

As part of Virgins Galactic’s post-flight protocol, the company will review all testing data collected from this mission along with a comprehensive and thorough inspection of the spaceship and mothership as the company prepares for its next test flight.

Video courtesy of Virgin Galactic


Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It’s only natural that she would develop a passion for anything “Space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in mankind, nature, and machines. Hailing from a family of photographers—including her father and her son, Theresa herself started documenting her world through pictures at a very early age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what appeals to her heart and her love of technology to deliver a diversified approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics, and industrial utility.

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