Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity Aces 2nd Powered Test Flight
Success! Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic VSS Unity space plane has taken to the skies again, and it seems to have gone well.
The new Virgin Galactic video of the flight shows Unity being released from its carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo before its rocket engine kicks on, propelling itself under its own power up to an altitude of 114,500 feet and reaching a speed of Mach 1.9 before gliding back to the Mojave Desert for landing.
The focus of this latest flight was to help the team increase its understanding of the spaceplane’s “supersonic handling characteristics and control system’s performance with vehicle parameters that were closer to the ultimate commercial configuration,” Virgin Galactic said on its website.
In case anyone is interested, Virgin Galactic is selling seats aboard its spacecraft for $250,000 and about 650 of them have been purchased so far.
Branson has effectively stopped coming out with estimates for when the first non-test SpaceShipTwo flight will launch, but if these tests continue to go well, the first passengers could fly to the edge of space in the next year or two.
Once Virgin Galactic has “a safe craft” that can reach more than 264,000 feet, Branson said, he will go up.
“Soon after that, we’ll start taking some of our astronauts up,” Branson said.
As of right now, Branson is focused on his company creating a reliable means of letting more people experience weightlessness. In the latest test flight, Unity’s rocket engine fired for 31 seconds. Virgin Galactic will likely aim to fire the engine for 40 seconds on the next flight, according to Branson, and 50 seconds on the following flight.