Virgin Galactic has successfully performed a second SpaceShipTwo glide test from Spaceport America. The test is scheduled to be the last before Virgin Galactic progresses to powered flights from the New Mexico spaceport.
The VSM Eve carrier aircraft with the VSS Unity strapped between its dual fuselage took off from Spaceport America on June 25. At a cruising altitude of 51,000 feet (15,500 meters), the order was given to release and VSS Unity dropped.
During a powered flight, the single RocketMotorTwo liquid/solid hybrid rocket engine would ignite carrying the spaceplane skywards. However, the June 25 flight was simply a glide test designed to put the spacecraft through its paces safely before a powered flight is attempted.
The VSS Unity vehicle achieved a maximum glide speed of Mach 0.85 during the test. This allowed pilots Mark Stucky and Michael Masucci to “complete multiple test-points before touching back down.”
The data collected during the test is currently being reviewed. Once it has been verified, the VSS Unity vehicle will be cleared for powered flight and Virgin Galactic will be one step closer to commercial flights.
It was an important test that, pending data review, means we can now start preparing the vehicles for powered flight.” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. Our focus for this year remains unchanged on ensuring the vehicles and our operations are prepared for long-term, regular commercial spaceflight service.”
Although Virgin Galactic has currently not revealed when the maiden commercial SpaceShipTwo flight will be launched, Whitesides’s comments suggest it is unlikely to occur in 2020.