On Saturday, Virgin Galactic made its third “space flight” and its first-ever spaceflight from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The SpaceShipTwo VSS “Unity” spacecraft reached a speed of Mach 3 after launch from the VMS “Eve” parent ship and reached space at an altitude of 89.2 km before slipping off the runway in Spaceport America.
In the cockpit of Unity were CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay, while Kelly Latimer and Michael Masucci drove the VMS “Eve”. CJ, who flew as a pilot pilot, is the first person to fly into space from three different US states. The crew saw unusual views of White Sands National Park in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic has achieved a number of in-flight testing goals, including conducting science experiments as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. The data that will be used for the last two required verification reports was collected as part of the current FAA reusable commercial spacecraft license.
SpaceShipTwo also tested horizontal stabilizers and improved flight controls for the spacecraft and verified reduced electromagnetic interference in the systems.
After the flight, Virgin Galactic will review all test data collected and will do a thorough examination of the spaceship and the parent ship. Once the team confirms the results, the company plans to run the next flight test.
VSS “Unity” had previously operated suborbital flights on December 13, 2018 and February 22, 2019. Since then, more systems and paragliders have been planned to be repaired and installed. Another suborbital test was canceled in December 2020. It remains unclear when the first flight with passengers will be possible. But it should happen in 2022 at the earliest.