Science and Tech

Virgin Galactic resumes crewed suborbital flights

Unity Suborbital Space Plane

Unity Suborbital Space Plane – VIRGIN GALACTIC

May 25. (EUROPE PRESS) –

Virgin Galactic successfully completed a six-person flight to the edge of space on May 25 in its Unity spacecraft, It took off and landed at the Mojave Spaceport in New Mexico.

The flight, called Unity 25, lasted for about 20 minutes. -according to the company’s Twitter account- and was crewed by two experienced pilots and four passengers, all Virgin Galactic employees. It was the company’s first manned mission in nearly two years.

Virgin Galactic had billed this mission as a “final evaluation of the complete spaceflight system and astronaut experience” before commencing commercial flights with paying customers.

The flight followed the profile of previous Virgin Galactic missions. Taking off from the company’s Spaceport America launch site in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic’s massive white transport plane, VMS Eve, lifted Unity to an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet (15,244 meters).

Eve then launched Unity and soon after the pilots fired up the spaceplane’s hybrid rocket engine. Then Unity ascended to the edge of space, more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Earth’s surface.

While the passengers on board experienced a few minutes of weightlessness, the pilots reconfigured the spaceplane to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and then glide the vehicle to the runway. where Unity landed like a plane.

This type of suborbital spaceplane has only been in space four times before and has suffered technical problems during flights and a high-profile crash in 2014 that left a pilot dead. The company, which previously hoped to start commercial space tourism service in late 2022, is also working to overcome doubts about its financial viability, Bloomberg reports.

Virgin Galactic has not flown the Unity spacecraft since July 2021, when the company brought its billionaire founder and five other company employees to the edge of space. The flight took place a week and a half before of rival company Blue Origin LLC taking its billionaire founder Jeff Bezos into space and back.

Branson’s flight seemed to indicate that Virgin Galactic was ready to begin routine space travel. But a month and a half later, an article in the New Yorker revealed that the trip had deviated from the intended flight path. The US Federal Aviation Administration he eventually grounded Virgin Galactic flights while supervising an investigation into the mishap.

In September 2021, regulators gave Virgin Galactic launch clearance, but the following month the company said it needed to pull out of new flights while it made design upgrades and other upgrades to its vehicles. The company repeatedly pushed back the planned start date for commercial service, eventually settling on the end of June 2023.

In April, Virgin Galactic conducted a glide flight with its main spaceplane VSS Unity, during which the vehicle is dropped from its carrier plane and glides onto a runway without starting his engine.

A few weeks ago, Virgin Galactic assured investors that it was on track to start its commercial service as planned.. Its first mission will be a research flight for the Italian Air Force, which will include two Italian military officers, as well as an aerospace engineer from the Italian National Research Council.

Members of the general public also bought tickets, paying up $450,000 per seat during a sale last year. The price is much higher than it was in the early days of the company, when customers were asked to pay $250,000.

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