Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity makes second powered flight
White Knight Two and SpaceShip Two ascend during a test flight held on May 29, 2018. Photo Credit: The SpaceShip Company
It has taken less than two months for Virgin Galactic to complete a second powered flight of their SpaceShip Two vehicle. The VSS Unity spacecraft dropped from the White Knight Two mothership over the Mojave desert in California this afternoon. After a brief drop, Unity fired it’s main engine and climbed skyward, reaching an altitude of 114,500 feet (34,899 meters).
After a 31 second engine burn and a short coast phase, pilots Dave Mackay and Mark “Forger” Stucky deployed Unity’s unique feather frame recovery system and defended to earth. Once in thicker air, Unity re-positioned its wings for a glide landing back at the Mojave Air and Spaceport.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, was on hand to greet the pilots as well as CJ Sturckow and Nicola Pecile, the pilots of White Knight Two when they returned from their flights.
“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” Branson said. “Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realizing our goals. Congratulations to the whole team!”
Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic
VSS Unity had undergone some reconfiguration for this flight including the installation of passenger seats and related equipment. According to Virgin Galactic, this takes the development of the system one step closer to the commercial configuration of the spacecraft. Today’s test flight was, in part, conducted to validate the changes made to the spacecraft.
“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,” Branson said.
The last powered flight for Unity came on April 5, 2018 when the same pilots took Unity to an estimated 46,500 feet (14,173 meters) using a 30 second engine burn. That flight marked the first powered mission of Virgin Galactic’s craft since the fatal 2014 crash of the VSS Enterprise. Virgin Galactic plans to fly their spacecraft from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. Branson still plans to be on the inaugural flight.
Today’s flight – was the second flight in less than two months that The SpaceShip Company has carried out. Photo Credit: The SpaceShip Company
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own
rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space
endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.