Virgin Galactic craft takes first flight
Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship successfully completed its first free flight with a glide test over the Mojave Desert, the company said.
The craft was carried aloft Saturday morning by its mothership, released at an altitude of 50,000 feet and, with pilots Mark Stuck and Dave Mackay in the cockpit, glided for 10 minutes to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port.
The spaceship, named Unity, had previously been flown on captive-carry flights in which it remained attached to the wing of the mothership, a specially designed jet.
Virgin Galactic said there will be many glide flights to confirm how it performs in real-world conditions before testing proceeds to rocket-powered flights.
The company said on its website that flight data and information from the pilots indicated it went “extremely well, but we’ll take the time to properly and thoroughly analyze the vehicle’s performance before clearing the vehicle for our next test.”
Virgin Galactic’s first spaceship broke apart in 2014 during its fourth rocket-powered test flight.
The craft is 60 feet long, has a wingspan of 42 feet and is designed to carry six passengers in addition to the two-person crew.