in Space

VSS Unity takes ninth test flight

Posted 2 June 2017 · Add Comment

Above the Mojave desert yesterday, Virgin Galactic successfully completed VSS Unity's ninth test flight.

Courtesy Virgin Galactic

It was exactly a month ago that the 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 were 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 Virgin Galactic to explore the flight conditions VSS Unity will experience during rocket powered flights.

Courtesy Virgin Galactic

By jettisoning the water ballast on descent (above), they 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.

The testing represents another important milestone as Virgin Galactic move towards the end of the of the initial glide test portion of the programme and turn their attention to the spaceship’s propulsion system. As they analyse the data from this flight, they will be moving into a period of ground-based activity focused on preparation for fuelled and then powered flights.


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