Virgin Galactic rocket ship VSS Unity makes its first spaceflight in two years


Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo spacecraft successfully made its first rocket-powered spaceflight in two years after ascending from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.

The spaceflight brings Virgin Galactic closer to offering tourist flights to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Virgin Galactic announced the firing of VSS Unity’s rocket motor to hurtle the ship and two pilots toward space. 

British billionaire and Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson confirmed in a Twitter post that the two pilots and a research payload belonging to NASA had reached space. 

The spaceflight, the first in two years, brings Virgin Galactic closer to offering tourist flights to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo spacecraft successfully made its first rocket-powered spaceflight from New Mexico's Spaceport America

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo spacecraft successfully made its first rocket-powered spaceflight from New Mexico’s Spaceport America

'Delighted to be on the flightline to watch @VirginGalactic's first human spaceflight from the majestic Spaceport America @Spaceport_NM #UNITY21,' Branson tweeted

‘Delighted to be on the flightline to watch @VirginGalactic’s first human spaceflight from the majestic Spaceport America @Spaceport_NM #UNITY21,’ Branson tweeted

VSS Unity, was carried up to an altitude of about 44,000 feet by a carrier aircraft called VMS Eve.  

VMS Eve released VSS Unity which fired its rocket engine and accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound, CNBC reported.   

After performing a slow backflip in microgravity at the edge of space, the spacecraft returned through the atmosphere in a glide, landing back in New Mexico, CNBC reported. 

‘VMS Eve has landed safely. Thanks to our pilots Kelly Latimer and Michael Masucci for flying the mothership today and their vital role in helping VSS Unity complete today’s spaceflight,’ Virgin Galactic tweeted an hour after VSS Unity reached space. 

Virgin Galactic is aiming for commercial operations to begin next year following testing and a few months of downtime for maintenance and other upgrades. That testing will include a flight that will take Branson to the edge of space later this year.

The first powered test in New Mexico from Spaceport America was delayed repeatedly before Saturday’s launch. In December 2020, computer trouble caused by electromagnetic interference prevented the spaceship´s rocket from firing properly. Instead of soaring toward space, the ship and its two pilots were forced to make an immediate landing.   

VMS Eve released VSS Unity which fired its rocket engine and accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound

 VMS Eve released VSS Unity which fired its rocket engine and accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound

'VMS Eve has landed safely. Thanks to our pilots Kelly Latimer and Michael Masucci for flying the mothership today and their vital role in helping VSS Unity complete today's spaceflight,' Virgin Galactic tweeted an hour after VSS Unity reached space

‘VMS Eve has landed safely. Thanks to our pilots Kelly Latimer and Michael Masucci for flying the mothership today and their vital role in helping VSS Unity complete today’s spaceflight,’ Virgin Galactic tweeted an hour after VSS Unity reached space

The company's spacecraft, named VSS Unity, was carried up to an altitude of about 44,000 feet by a carrier aircraft called VMS Eve

The company’s spacecraft, named VSS Unity, was carried up to an altitude of about 44,000 feet by a carrier aircraft called VMS Eve

The rocket was carrying both human operators and research payloads in partnership with NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

In a video posted to Twitter, Branson could be seen celebrating the successful space flight from the New Mexico launch site. 

‘Delighted to be on the flightline to watch @VirginGalactic’s first human spaceflight from the majestic Spaceport America @Spaceport_NM #UNITY21,’ he tweeted.

Virgin Galactic is one of a few companies looking to cash in on customers with an interest in space. 

The company has about 600 reservations for future flights on VSS Unity, with tickets sold at prices between $200,000 and $250,000 each, CNBC reported. 

The spacecraft can hold up to six passengers along with the two pilots.

Elon Musk´s SpaceX will launch a billionaire and his sweepstakes winners in September. That should be followed in January 2022 by a flight by three businessmen to the International Space Station.

Jeff Bezos´ Blue Origin launched a new capsule in January as part of testing as it aims to get its program for tourists, scientists and professional astronauts off the ground. It´s planning for liftoff of its first crewed flight on July 20, the date of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Virgin Galactic has reached space twice before. 

First from California in December 2018 and then again last June when the company marked its second successful glide flight over New Mexico. 

Preparations for the latest attempt included a maintenance review of the special carrier plane that flies the six-passenger spacecraft to a high altitude, where it is released so it can fire its rocket motor and make the final push to space.

The flights are designed to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles before the rocket motor is turned off and the crew prepares to reenter the atmosphere and glide to a landing.

As part of the return trip, a feathering system slows and stabilizes the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere. 

While Virgin Galactic´s stock price ticked up this week with the announcement of the latest test being scheduled for Saturday, it wasn´t enough to overcome the losses seen since a peak in February. Some analysts have cautioned that it could be a while before the company sees profits as the exact start of commercial operations is still up in the air.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk