Richard Branson’s dream of commercial space travel being a reality came one step closer this week after the second successful, supersonic rocket-powered test flight of the Virgin Galactica VSS Unity.
And Branson was on the runway tarmac in Mojave to greet the pilots Dave Mackay and Mark “Forger” Stucky to congratulate them.
“It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space,” said Branson. “Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realising our goals.”
The focus of the flight was to expand our understanding of the spaceship’s supersonic handling characteristics and control system’s performance. The rocket motor burned for the planned 31 seconds and propelled Unity to a speed of Mach 1.9 and an altitude of 114,500 ft. As will be the case for future commercial flights, Unity’s unique re-entry feathering system was deployed for the initial descent before the final glide home to a smooth runway landing.
Once in commercial service, Virgin Galactic’s spaceships are designed to be turned around and flown at a higher frequency than has traditionally been the case for human spaceflight.
The flight brought Branson’s space vision a little closer, coming less than two months after Unity’s first rocket powered flight.
While in Mojave, Richard Branson also toured the facilities of The Spaceship Company (TSC), Virgin’s Galactic sister company. TSC is focused on manufacturing next-generation aerospace vehicles, with a primary focus on new spaceships for Virgin Galactic’s future fleet.