VSS Unity’s first flight test completed


Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo took its first ‘captive carry’ flight on September 8. The spacecraft was built by the manufacturing arm of Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, and flew for 3 hours and 43 minutes.

Uniquely, unlike NASA’s Space Shuttle, Russia’s Soyuz, or other past systems, SpaceShipTwo launches from under the wing of a carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. The VSS Unity remained mated to the WhiteKnightTwo mothership (VMS Eve) for the entire flight from take-off to landing.

In this configuration, WhiteKnightTwo serves as a ‘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 the test flight’s maximum altitude of approximately 50,000ft, and above.

With this flight completed, Virgin Galactic teams will now analyze the extensive flight data, learning what worked well and what could be improved for the next flight test. Virgin Galactic says it will be ready to move into the next phase of test flight when that analysis is completed, along with detailed vehicle inspections, some already-planned work, and potentially more captive carry flights.

September 9, 2016

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