in Space

VSS Unity loads up for latest flight

Posted 4 July 2017 · Add Comment

On 1st June - a day after the first appearance of the huge carrier aircraft from its Mojave neighbours Stratolaunch - Virgin Galactic's own vehicles took to the skies for VSS Unity's ninth test flight, to see how it performed carrying an additional 1000lbs.



It was exactly a month ago that Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceship last flew, successfully demonstrating its unique re-entry 'feathering' mechanism for the first time in flight.

VSS Unity pilots Dave Mackay and CJ Sturckow, had an equally busy test-card but with the emphasis on proving the spaceship’s handling qualities, particularly at low speeds, with more weight on board than previously and with a centre of gravity shifted towards the back of the vehicle.

This was achieved by loading around 1000lbs of water into a specially installed ballast tank in the rear of the spaceship’s fuselage. That enabled exploration of flight conditions that would be experienced during rocket powered flights. By jettisoning the water ballast on descent, Virgin Galactic were also able to confirm handling characteristics as the vehicle’s centre of gravity moved forward. Unity completed the flight with a safe and smooth landing in its lighter-weight configuration.

This flight represent another important milestone as Virgin Galactic move towards the end of the of the initial glide test portion of the programme and attention is turned to the spaceship’s propulsion system.

Following analysis of the data from the flight, Virgin Galactic will be moving into a period of ground-based activity focused on preparation for fuelled and then powered flights.

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