Virgin Galactic completes glide flight from Spaceport America
Virgin Galactic has completed a successful glide flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico, in what is one of the final steps towards commercial spaceline operations.
VSS Unity's flight took place at at 06:53 MST today, 26 April. The spaceship was released at 47,000’ at 07:47 MST and landed at 07:56 MST. VSS Unity was piloted by CJ Sturckow and Nicola Pecile, with Kelly Latimer and Jameel Janjua piloting VMS Eve. Glide flights include key elements of a spaceflight profile, including a mated take-off, high-altitude release from mothership, and landing.
The flight’s objectives included evaluating the performance of the spaceship in the glide phase, following the modification period. The team were also able to continue evaluating the handling qualities and flight controls of the spaceship, and gather data on the new mothership pylon with the spaceship attached during standard climb and release.
"Releasing Unity for a glide flight today is one of the final steps towards commercial spaceline operations," said Mike Moses, President of Spaceline Missions and Safety at Virgin Galactic. "The ability to conduct glide flights - allowing us to gain critical performance metrics without the need for rocket-power - is one of the benefits of our distinctive flight system. The data from this validation flight will clear the way for our return to space, and, ultimately, lead to the launch of commercial service."
This successful glide flight completes the final validation test points, in addition to data gathered in a mated configuration flight last week. The data will be analysed in the coming weeks, and pending this analysis Virgin Galactic’s vehicles will be cleared for return to spaceflight.
The next Virgin Galactic mission will be a rocket-powered spaceflight. This flight will carry two pilots and four Virgin Galactic mission specialists in the cabin to assess the customer experience and ground-based training prior to the launch of commercial service, expected in the second quarter of 2023.