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SpaceShipTwo goes supersonic in first powered flight since fatal breakup in 2014

07 April, 2018, 00:10 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Virgin Galactic conducts first rocket-powered test since 2014 crash

On Thursday, the Richard Branson-owned Virgin Galactic conducted the first powered test flight of the VSS Unity spaceship, popularly known as the SpaceShipTwo. About an hour after liftoff, Virgin Galactic tweeted that VSS Unity separated cleanly from the larger plane and that its two pilots later propelled the spaceship upward by igniting its rocket motor for a "planned partial duration burn".

The completed mission is the first test the space company has carried out since the fatal crash of the 2014 mission that killed one of its pilots, so it goes without saying there was a lot riding on it.

The spaceplane reached supersonic speeds before the engines cut off, and then it glided down for a safe landing at the company's spaceport back in Mojave. The spaceship, dubbed VSS Unity by the late British physicist Stephen Hawking during a 2016 ceremony, has now undergone 12 total flight tests.

Virgin Galactic engineers are now reviewing the data on flight, motor and vehicle performance after this week's successful flight.

The Unity spacecraft's successful launch, which reached supersonic heights, and landing marks a milestone in the company's endeavor to send tourists to space.

Key to commercial operations will be SpaceShipTwo's "feathered" re-entry configuration, which involves raising the vehicle's tail booms to a 60-degree angle to the fuselage to slow the aircraft's decent.




Unity is a follow-on production model called SpaceShipTwo, built by The Spaceship Company.

Virgin founder Richard Branson said last year he hoped to begin commercial launches this year, but the company has not revealed any schedule details and it's not yet clear when paying customers might get off the ground.

At approximately 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), the tail-booms were lowered again. Data review to come, then on to the next flight.

Aerospace organizations from a nation away congratulated the NewSpace firm on its successful test flight.

The spaceships are built by the Spaceship Company, which operates in Mojave and is a unit of Virgin Galactic.

Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations.

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