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Virgin Galactic reaches milestone with successful test flight

07 April, 2018, 00:50 | Author: Hannah Francis
  • SpaceShipTwo test flight

Virgin Galactic successfully conducted a supersonic flight of its spacecraft this week - marking the company's first return to the skies after a fatal crash four years ago.

Thursday's test flight was the highest and fastest for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo program, eclipsing marks set by the VSS Enterprise's three powered test flights before the ship crashed.

The rocket ship accelerated past the speed of sound for just a moment before slowing down and turning around for a glide back home.

Unity's successful trip brings Virgin Galactic one step closer to their ultimate goal: to get people on commercial flights to space.

The flight generated "valuable data on flight, motor and vehicle performance", which Virgin Galactic's engineers are now studying. "Space feels tantalisingly close now".

The Virgin Galactic spacecrafts will enter space around 68 miles above the Earth's surface, before descending and re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

The launch is welcome news as it's the first powered flight since the 2014 accident that killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury.




Unity has previously flown on test flights in which it glided without lighting the rocket.

Update for 1:30 p.m. PT April 5: This report has been updated with Virgin Galactic's post-flight recap.

A craft named VSS Unity was hoisted to an altitude of 46,5000 feet by designated schlep-plane WhiteKnightTwo, then released. The company can now proceed with new phases, including full-duration rocket burns and powered flight.

The flight was also significant for Virgin Galactic's Mojave based, sister manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company. The successful test flight is the result of over 2 years of extensive ground and atmospheric testing.

Since then, Virgin Galactic has moved spaceplane building duties in-house and VSS Unity was built by the Spaceship Co., which operates at the Mojave Air & Space Port. "While we celebrate that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead".

Eventually, Virgin Galactic plans to carry tourists on suborbital hops into the lower reaches of space, where they can see Earth far below and the stars beyond.

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