Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (NYSE:SPCE) completed its long-delayed third spaceflight over the weekend, leaving just two regulatory hurdles ahead before it can begin carrying paying passengers into space.
The company’s spaceship VSS Unity was carried into the upper atmosphere by mothership VMS Eve before being released and firing its own rockets.
Under the control of pilots CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay, Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 as it reached an altitude of 55.45 miles (89.2km) before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America site in New Mexico.
The US officially considers anyone who has flown above 80km to be astronauts.
Following the flight, and in line with normal procedures, Virgin Galactic said it will conduct a review of all test data gathered and inspect the spaceship and mothership. Once the results have been confirmed and sent to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the company plans to proceed to the next flight test milestone.
Some of the data collected during the flight will used for the final two verification reports that are required as part of the current FAA commercial reusable spacecraft operator’s licence.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today’s flight showcased the inherent elegance and safety of our spaceflight system, while marking a major step forward for both Virgin Galactic and human spaceflight in New Mexico.
“Space travel is a bold and adventurous endeavour, and I am incredibly proud of our talented team for making the dream of private space travel a reality. We will immediately begin processing the data gained from this successful test flight, and we look forward to sharing news on our next planned milestone.”
As well as collecting the crucial data needed to win its licence, other test objectives fulfilled during the flight include testing the spaceship’s upgraded horizontal stabilizers, flight controls and EMI reductions, while the ship also carried revenue-generating scientific research experiments as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.
Story by ProactiveInvestors
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