Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo vehicle, designated VSS Unity, has successfully completed its first free flight. The vehicle, which was built by Virgin Galactic subsidiary The Spaceship Company, flew fully under its own control for 10 minutes.
During the glide flight, VSS Unity was piloted by Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay, with pilots Mike Masucci and Todd Ericsson as well as flight test engineer Dustin Mosher in WhiteKnightTwo. The test marked the fifth flight of VSS Unity, and the 218th flight of WhiteKnightTwo, following several recent captive carry flights.
For this first gliding test flight, VSS Unity was flying light and slow, achieving a maximum speed of approximately Mach 0.6 while gliding home from an altitude of 50,000 feet. Virgin Galactic says that an initial review of data and pilot feedback indicate that the flight went extremely well.
The announcement comes two years after the loss of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise (VSS Enterprise), which was destroyed following premature deployment of the vehicle’s innovative feather mechanism, designed to increase stability and drag during re-entry by moving the tail stabilizers from horizontal to vertical position.