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Virgin Galactic completes first supersonic mission since 2014 fatal test crash

07 April, 2018, 00:49 | Author: Lora Ball
  • SpaceShipTwo test flight

VIDEO Virgin Galactic's space tourism operation conducted its first rocket-powered flight on Thursday, and appears to have recorded a roaring success.

Around 8 a.m., the company tweeted that mother ship VMS Eve and the attached VSS Unity had taken off.

The rocket ship accelerated past the speed of sound for just a moment before slowing down and turning around for a glide back home.

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Today's test puts Virgin back on track toward Branson's goal of shuttling paying tourists on short trips into suborbital space.

"The flight has generated valuable data on flight, motor and vehicle performance which our engineers will be reviewing", Virgin said in a statement on the company's web page.

Virgin Galactic made a major leap forward in its aerospace ambitions this week. The spaceship reached 25,000 metres before making a smooth runway landing, the company said. 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). Although the VSS Unity has previously done many glide tests, this was the first time its rocket motor was turned on.

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VSS Unity benefits from all the data and lessons gathered from the test program of her predecessor vehicle, VSS Enterprise. This unique design feature, which is key to a reliable and repeatable re-entry capability for a winged vehicle, incorporates the additional safety mechanisms adopted after the 2014 VSS Enterprise test flight accident.

A reusable space plane created to carry two pilots and up to six passengers (or research payloads) into suborbital space, the SS2 is Virgin Galactic's means for "transforming access to space", for paying customers and researchers, according to the company's vision statement. Successful powered flight, Mach 1.6.

Since then, Virgin Galactic has moved spaceplane building duties in-house and VSS Unity was built by the Spaceship Co., which operates at the Mojave Air & Space Port. "While we celebrate that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead", the company stated in a release issued after the flight.

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