Virgin Galactic’s Unity spacecraft completes 2nd test flight above 50 miles


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Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic’s Unity suborbital spacecraft today successfully completed its seconnd test flight above 50 miles, carrying a test passenger for the first time.

The vessel was ferried up attached to a larger plan called WhiteKnightTwo, dropped into the sky, and then taken up by rocket-powered engine to more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface just before 9 a.m. local time. It landed safely 15 minutes later. The company said VSS Unity hit Mach 3.04 and traveled to an altitude of 55.87 miles or 295,007 feet, faster and higher than any test flight yet for the vessel.

In addition to the two pilots, Unity carried a test passenger, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor. Besides gathering data, she also unstrapped to experience weightlessness.

The link makes the false claim that this was the first time weightlessness was experienced in a commercial vehicle, even though numerous people have flown weightless on private “vomit comet” airplane flights.

It does appear that Virgin Galactic is finally, after fourteen years, getting close to that first ticketed tourist flight. It also looks possible that they will never quite reach 62 miles, the more commonly accepted definition for the beginnings of space.

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2 comments

  • pzatchok

    I just can not imagine being weightless inside a very small cramped cabin with 4 other passengers who might just be going through scape sickness as a fun experience.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Good point about the vomit comets. According to her bio, Ms. Moses is, herself, a veteran of over 400 such jaunts – or maybe just 400 parabolas on a lesser number of actual flights.

    But I think this is the first time that weightlessness has been experienced in a commercial suborbital space vehicle by a non-pilot while said vehicle was actually in space – at least by USAF definition. Looks as though Blue Origin still has time to grab bragging rights for doing the same on a flight above the Von Karman line – assuming VG doesn’t have an additional surprise up its sleeve soon for one of the remaining test flights and that BO gets its arse in gear.

    Even with the extra cheese paring, though, it’s still a noteworthy accomplishment.

    VG is hardly running a SpaceX-quality operation, but one has to give Branson credit for Musk-level stick-to-it’ve-ness. Not quite as much time wandering in the desert as the Biblical Israelites, but quite awhile nonetheless. Perhaps the wandering is nearly over.

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