VSS Unity is a part of the SpaceShipTwo class of spaceplanes designed by Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Company to be dropped from a mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo. With two pilots at the controls, VSS Unity fired its hybrid rocket motor for 30 seconds, reaching an altitude of more than 84,000 feet and a top speed of Mach 1.87, almost twice the speed of sound. The successful test comes nearly four years after a fatal accident on an earlier version of the spaceship (See:Virgin Galactic space craft crashes in California, killing pilot during test flight). The spacecraft then achieved supersonic speed before pilots shut down the engine and it returned to Mojave Air and Space Port. Virgin Galactic's sister manufacturing company, The Spaceship Company, built the VSS Unity from scratch for Virgin Galactic. Because of this, Unity can only reach a maximum altitude of 80 km. The pilots raised the vehicle's twin tail booms to an angle of 60 degrees in a maneuver known as "feathering", which helped ease the stresses experienced while plunging back into the thick lower atmosphere.
VSS Unity's flight was a "big step forward", the company said.
Virgin Galactic has since eased back into testing by conducting gliding test flights of its new spaceship, named VSS Unity. Additional safety features have been added to help ensure that a repeat of that accident is unlikely to take place.
At around 50,000 feet, the pilots lowered the tail booms back into position.
The flight has generated valuable data on flight, motor and vehicle performance, which our engineers will be reviewing.
The Spaceship corporation, which works in Mojave and is a unit of Virgin Galactic builds the spaceships. Successful powered flight, Mach 1.6. While we celebrate that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead.
The firm praised pilots Mike Masucci and Nicola Pecile for the "great milestone test flight". He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.
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