Virgin Galactic tests passenger rocket ship, 3 years after fatal accident

Virgin Galactic conducts first rocket-powered test since 2014 crash

Virgin Galactic conducts first rocket-powered test since 2014 crash

The late physicist-who'd been offered a future ride on a Virgin Galactic space ship by founder Richard Branson, and whose photographed iris is part of the company's logo-would likely have applauded yesterday's first powered flight of VSS Unity.

The successful test means Virgin Galactic is closer to moving operations to Spaceport America, near Truth or Consequences.

After takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port, the new rocketplane, known as VSS Unity and built by The Spaceship Co., was dropped from its mothership, the White Knight 2 carrier aircraft, at an altitude of 46,500 feet. Only a few seconds later, Unity's rocket motor was deployed and took the pilots upward at an 80-degree climb, hitting Mach 1.87 over the course of 30 seconds.

Branson couldn't contain his excitement on twitter following the test flight: "Data review to come, then on to the next flight. Space feels tantalizingly close now".

The Spaceship corporation, which works in Mojave and is a unit of Virgin Galactic builds the spaceships.

"At around 50,000ft, the tail-booms were lowered again and, while jettisoning the remaining oxidizer, Unity turned towards Mojave for the glide home and a smooth runway landing".

"It's a big step forward for our team, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said when reached by phone".

Virgin Galactic's original SpaceShipTwo vehicle broke apart during an October 2014 test flight that killed the co-pilot and seriously injured the pilot, in an accident that was ultimately attributed to pilot error.

Unity had already flown with the mothership and been released on seven test glides, but this was the first time the spacecraft had fired up its rockets and flown on its own.

Unlike other commercial spaceflight companies, such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic initiates its flights without using a traditional rocket launch. This unique design feature, which is key to a reliable and repeatable re-entry capability for a winged vehicle, incorporates the additional safety mechanisms adopted after the 2014 VSS Enterprise test flight accident. "While we celebrate that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead".

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.