As we announced on the 7th of September, Virgin Galactic’s new space vessel (VSS unity) has just entered into service. After a two-year break since the first vessel crashed, the flight-test program has now resumed.
On the 8th of September, in the Mojave Desert in California, the vessel VSS Unity carried out its maiden flight. It was built by the Spaceship Company. During the four-hour flight, the vessel remained securely attached to its shuttle WhiteKnightTwo (VMS Eve). This is a way for Virgin Galactic to carry out "testing airflow around SpaceShipTwo while simultaneously testing how the spaceship performs when exposed to the frigid temperatures found at an altitude of approximately 50 000ft and above." A sort of real life wind tunnel test.
Richard Branson’s teams are now going to analyse all the data that’s been collected during this first flight-test. Only once all the analyses have been carried out and any necessary changes made, will the vessel be test flown again however. Several more flights like this, with the vessel attached to the shuttle, should be carried out before VSS Unity is launched, powered by its own engine.
As Jean-Luc Wibaux, Virgin Galactic’s accredited space agent for France, rightly pointed out, the flight test program will likely be a long one. As a result, the first commercial flight into space won’t happen any time soon.