Virgin Galactic on the way back to space with test flight
Two years after a disastrous crash that effectively stalled the development of the space tourism industry, Virgin Galactic is back testing flights of its spacecraft. This an exciting milestone, for the first time, a spacecraft built by The Spaceship Company, and operated by Virgin Galactic has taken to the skies.
The Spaceship Company, a spin-off of Virgin Galactic and spaceship designer Burt Rutan, has launched a successful four-hour test flight of its SpaceShipTwo-class launch vehicle, the VMS Eve, carrying the VSS Unity.
This is first ever flight of a vehicle built by The Spaceship Company. Like every flight of SpaceShipTwo, this mission is crewed, with two of Virgin Galactic's pilots in VSS Unity and two more in WhiteKnightTwo.
SpaceShipTwo doesn’t launch from a pad on the ground, but rather from under the wing of a carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. Yesterday's flight test was what we called a ‘captive carry’ flight, during which VSS Unity remained mated to our WhiteKnightTwo mothership (VMS Eve) for the entire flight from takeoff to landing.
In this configuration, WhiteKnightTwo serves as a veritable ‘flying wind tunnel,’ allowing the highest fidelity method of testing airflow around SpaceShipTwo while simultaneously testing how the spaceship performs when exposed to the frigid temperatures found at today’s maximum altitude of ~50,000 feet and above.
Throughout the entire 3 hour and 43 minute test flight, the flight crew as well our mission controllers and ground crews did the hard work of supporting a crewed test flight of a spaceflight system, great practice for our eventual flights to space.
With this flight in the books, the team will now analyze flight data, learning what worked well and what could be improved for subsequent flight tests. "Only when that analysis is done, along with detailed vehicle inspections, some already-planned work, and potentially more captive carry flights, will we be ready to move into the next phase of test flight," they report.