Virgin Galactic recently announced the successful completion of its first SpaceShipTwo test flight from Spaceport America
The flight was an unpowered glide, and marks the inaugural solo flight of VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Unity in New Mexico. It is an important flight test milestone in preparation for commercial service.
On SpaceShipTwo’s flight deck were Dave Mackay and C J Sturckow who, together with the team in Mission Control, executed some of the key elements of a spaceflight profile.
Having taken off from Spaceport Americas 3,657 metre runway, with VSS Unity attached to the ‘mother ship’ carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, the vehicles climbed to an altitude of 50,000ft before Unity was released, at which point it flew freely for the first time in New Mexico airspace.
The spaceship achieved a glide speed of Mach 0.70 and completed multiple test items before touching back down smoothly on the runway at Spaceport America.
This test flight was conducted under a set of ‘stringent operational protocols’ to ensure safety against Covid-19.
Its successful execution was made possible by a concerted effort to redesign all the operational elements required for safe flight test while meeting new personal protection protocols.
These include changes to the work areas and procedures to enforce social distancing as advised by state guidelines, as well as universal mask usage.
Friday’s flight successfully completed all test objectives and preparation for the next flight has already begun, starting with an in-depth analysis of the flight data.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company said: “I’d like to congratulate our team for reaching this flight milestone, especially during these challenging times.
“I am grateful for the commitment displayed by everyone involved, not only in helping to support relief efforts in both New Mexico and California, but also for the dedication and creativity which will allow us to continue safely towards our goal of commercial launch.”