Virgin Galactic Successfully Tests New Spacecraft
Just a few days ago, the Virgin Galactic took to the skies for the first test of its rocket-powered spacecraft in over three years. The SpaceShipTwo launch platform deployed the VSS Unity at a set altitude where the space craft fired its engines for as long as 30 seconds bringing the craft to 1 1/2 the speed of sound. This was the first powered test of the Unity since the SpaceShipTwo Enterprise broke up during a test flight in late 2014.
The test puts the firm another step closer to Branson’s goals of space tourism. Afterward, the billionaire tweeted that Virgin Galactic is ‘back on track.’
Virgin Galactic was founded and so far existed to provide a reusable platform to reach sub-orbital altitudes of about 68 miles above the Earth. It’s capable of carrying passengers who are expected to pay around $250,000 for the trip.
Once Virgin Galactic is operational, tourists will receive three days of training to prepare for their flight. Customers will experience “several minutes” of weightlessness when their space plane reaches suborbital space, according to the company’s website.
This space plane has now undergone 12 total flight tests. Mojave-based Virgin Galactic previously conducted a series of glide tests but had not fired up the space plane’s rocket-powered motor.
The return to powered flight tests “had to happen for Virgin Galactic to proceed,” said John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute.
“This is a crucial first step, but other steps will have to be taken, other flights will have to happen, before they’re ready to carry paying passengers,” he said.