Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft soars to its first solo glide test

Contributed by
Dec 5, 2016

After a month-long delay due to high winds and weather-related issues, Virgin Galactic's second SpaceShipTwo completed its first solo flight test on Saturday high over the Mojave Desert.

The VSS Unity's flawless flight was the first in a series of scheduled glide tests to help measure the sub-orbital craft's aerodynamic performance prior to surging ahead into actual powered flights.  The sleek WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft took off from the company's Mojave Air and Space Port in California on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 3, with the gleaming white spaceplane attached. Separation from the mothership occurred at 10:40 EST and following a perfect ten-minute glide, VSS Unity gently touched down on the runway in Mojave.

This begins Virgin Galactic's next testing phase for the commercial spacecraft designed to carry six brave space tourists and vital research payloads to an altitude of approximately 62 miles (328,000 feet).  

"There's 10 glide flights' worth of targets," said President Mike Moses during October's International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in New Mexico. "We could do those in 8 flights, or might take 15, but we're not going into the next phase before we clear those."

The VSS Enterprise, the first SpaceShipTwo, crashed in October of 2014 during its fourth powered flight test when the feathering mechansim was accidentally activated, causing the death of co-pilot Michael Alsbury and severely injuring pilot Peter Siebold.

Have a look at the inspiring mission footage in the video below and tell us if you'd hitch a ride aboard Virgin Galactic's gorgeous new spaceplane if you won the lottery.  

(Via Space)