SpaceShipTwo makes its first flight in two years

On April 26, the VSS Unity spaceplane (SpaceShipTwo) made a flight in planning mode. It was its first in almost two years.

SpaceShipTwo on the hang of the carrier aircraft VMS Eve. Source: Virgin Galactic

The last time VSS Unity took to the sky was in July 2021. Then there were six people on board: two pilots and four passengers, including the owner of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson. During the flight, VSS Unity rose to an altitude of 86 km, which was above the 50-mile mark, considered the boundary of outer space according to the US Air Force. 

But, although Richard Branson was ahead of his competitor Jeff Bezos (his flight to New Shepard took place 9 days later), but in general, it did not bring his company noticeable dividends. Shortly after the historic flight, Virgin Galactic began refitting VSS Unity and the VMS Eve carrier aircraft. Initially, the company promised that it would start regular tourist flights in 2022. However, since then, these deadlines have been repeatedly shifted.

The flight, which took place on April 26, was the first for VSS Unity in almost two years. It went as follows. The VMS Eve carrier aircraft rose to an altitude of 14.3 km, after which VSS Unity separated from it. Then it made a nine-minute flight in free planning mode and landed on the runway of Spaceport America.

Virgin Galactic said that the test was one of the last steps on the way to the start of tourist missions. The next flight will take place with the engine turned on. In addition to the pilots, four employees of the company will be on board the spaceplane, who will play the role of tourists. Their main task will be to assess the convenience of VSS Unity for passengers and collect data, which will then be used to conduct pre-flight training for Virgin Galactic customers. The date of this flight is still unknown. At the same time, the company assures that it will start tourist flights in the second quarter of this year.

According to

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