Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Branson brings space tourism closer with successful Unity test

Virgin Galactic's Unity aircraft completed its first powered flight in the Mojave desert Virgin Galactic's Unity aircraft completed its first powered flight in the Mojave desert Credit Virgin Galactic
Eugene Bates | 07 April, 2018, 00:48

At about 8 am local time, The VMS Eve carrier plane took off from Mojave, California, carrying SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity before releasing it 14,000 metres above ground, Virgin Galactic said in a statement. After a few seconds, Unity's rocket motor was brought to life and the pilots aimed the spaceship upwards into an 80 degree climb, accelerating to Mach 1.87 during the 30 seconds of rocket burn. The plane reached a maximum height of 84,271 feet (15.9 miles, or 25.7 kilometers), Virgin Galactic said.

The "feathers" concept was developed by maverick aerospace designer Burt Rutan and demonstrated during the 2004 suborbital flights of the experimental SpaceShipOne, which was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and won the $10 million Ansari X Prize as the first privately developed, manned rocket to reach space.

Yesterday's test went smoothly, according to Virgin Galactic.

We've had our first glimpse of Virgin Galactic's new test flight and it's out of this world.

Virgin Galactic plans to perform a series of additional powered test flights with Unity.

At approximately 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), the tail-booms were lowered again.

The National Transportation Safety Board also faulted Scaled Composites, which built the VSS Enterprise spacecraft and employed Alsbury and Siebold, for failing to address the risks and consequences of a pilot-induced error, raising chances that a catastrophic accident could be instigated by a single mistake. Virgin Galactic's previously said it expects to fly paid missions in 2018, but it's unclear if that remains a feasible deadline.

VSS Unity benefits from all the data and lessons gathered from the test program of her predecessor vehicle, VSS Enterprise.

"The flight has generated valuable data on flight, motor and vehicle performance which our engineers will be reviewing", read Virgin Galactic's post-flight write-up. Virgin Galactic's promised passengers or scientists "Exposure to several minutes of high quality microgravity per flight" on each launch.

"It also marks a key moment for the test flight programme, entering now the exciting phase of powered flight and the expansion to full duration rocket burns". 'Another great test flight, another step closer to being NMReady'.

"Space feels tantalizingly close now", he added.

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