Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Virgin Galactic Lands First Rocket-Powered Test Flight After 2014 Fatal Accident

Virgin Galactic's Unity aircraft completed its first powered flight in the Mojave desert Virgin Galactic's Unity aircraft completed its first powered flight in the Mojave desert Credit Virgin Galactic
Domingo Copeland | 07 April, 2018, 00:48

Unity's successful trip brings Virgin Galactic one step closer to their ultimate goal: to get people on commercial flights to space.

The one-minute video shows the suborbital space plane, known as VSS Unity, drop from the mothership airplane that carried it into the skies over California's Mojave Desert, zoom even higher under its own rocket power and roll down the runway shortly after landing. At 45,600 feet, the Unity was released, at which point it climbed upwards at 80 degrees in a Mach 1.87 climb.

The company has not yet announced a date for the start of passenger flights but is selling tickets for a ride aboard SpaceShipTwo at $250,000 U.S. a seat.

The Virgin Galactic spacecrafts will enter space around 68 miles above the Earth's surface, before descending and re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

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

"#WhiteKnightTwo pilots, Mike "Sooch" Masucci and Nicola Pecile have landed VMS Eve safely, completely today's important test flight @MojaveAirport", the tweet said.

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At approximately 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), the tail-booms were lowered again. The Enterprise accident occurred when the co-pilot prematurely unlocked the "feathers" and the ship broke apart.

The National Transportation Safety Board also faulted Scaled Composites, which built the VSS Enterprise spacecraft and employed Alsbury and Siebold, for failing to address the risks and consequences of a pilot-induced error, raising chances that a catastrophic accident could be instigated by a single mistake.

It was Unity's first attempt at transonic flight. Unlike the last time in 2014, however, the test was a success and the VSS Unity managed to complete it first supersonic flight. Images are courtesy of Virgin Galactic.

The last time Virgin Galactic turned on a spacecraft's motors during flight, it ended in a tragic crash. While the company celebrates that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead.

Officials did not say Thursday when SpaceShipTwo will make a full-duration test flight, or when commercial passengers could begin flying with Virgin Galactic. "Space feels tantalisingly close now".

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