Photo of VSS Unity during is seventh glide flight on January 11, 2018. Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic conducted a successful test flight of the SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity vehicle on Thursday, Jan. 11. The high-speed glide test marks the seventh for VSS Unity, which reached a top speed of Mach 0.9 during the flight.
At the helm were pilots Mark Stucky and Michael Masucci, who pushed the test article of the spacecraft to the limits of its atmospheric gliding capabilities. The flight comes several months after the previous flight of Unity in August of 2017. In the intervening time, extensive analysis, testing, and some small modifications were made to the vehicle to prepare it to withstand higher loads. Mach 0.9 is approximately the highest speed the vehicle can reach without firing the rocket motor, according to a release on the Virgin Galactic website.
Unity has not yet conducted a powered test flight. In order to simulate the weight and positioning of the rocket motor, water ballast is added to the vehicle. The water is then jettisoned around 22,000 feet (6,705 meters) to allow the vehicle to land under lighter conditions that better simulate the weight of the vehicle after ...