Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity sub-orbital spacecraft successfully completed its first free flight.
The craft hitched a ride with Virgin’s WhiteKnightTwo to a distance of 50 000 feet above the Earth before gliding down to the surface on its own. Then journey took 80 minutes with VSS Unity only needing 10 minutes to reach the Earth’s surface.
Virgin says that despite this seemingly short flight time the pilots, mission controllers and ground crew were able to gather valuable data that will assist them in moving forward.
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) December 3, 2016
“An initial look at the data as well as feedback from our two pilots indicate that today’s flight went extremely well, but we’ll take the time to properly and thoroughly analyze the vehicle’s performance before clearing the vehicle for our next test,” the firm said in a blog post.
The next stage in Virgin’s testing involves rocket powered flight but the firm has said that stage won’t begin until it has a few more gliding flights under its belt and has done more calculations as to how the vessel would react under multiple real-world flight conditions.
Virgin taking to the skies once agin and completing a successful flight is big news for the firm which saw SpaceShipTwo crash in late 2014. That crash was eventually found to be the result of a co-pilot triggering the ship’s feathering system too early.
Those that are hoping they’ll get a sub-orbital ride soon however need only look at Virgin’s “Testing Road To Space” to discover that given the amount of testing that still needs to be completed it might be a while yet before we’re booking flights to the edge of space.[Source – Virgin Galatic][Image – Virgin]