Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity completes 'dry run' test


Virgin Galactic’s reusable VSS Unity suborbital spaceplane has completed its sixth glide test.

Conducted in Mojave, California, US, this test was essentially a ‘dry run’ for the upcoming rocket-powered flights and controlled by pilots Dave Mackay and CJ Sturckow.

During the test, VSS Unity flew with all of its principle propulsion components onboard, including a forward pressurant tank loaded with helium, and a fully charged main oxidiser tank filled with nitrous oxide.

A ballast tank filled with 1,000lb of water was also carried in the rear fuselage to simulate the weight and positioning of case/throat/nozzle (CTN).

“We collected hundreds of gigabytes of data for us to review, and from the pilots’ point of view, it felt really wonderful."

The test began when Unity's mothership VMS Eve took the spaceship up to an altitude of 40,000ft to drop it from this height, reported International Business Times.

After completing the separation from Eve and an approach-to-stall test, Unity’s tail-booms were raised into their re-entry position for the second time in flight.

When the spaceplane came back into its normal glide configuration, the pilots used the descent to perform the remaining tests that involved a high-G pull-up manoeuvre and bank-to-bank rolls.

Unlike in the earlier glide test, the water ballast in the rear tank was not jettisoned to enable the pilots to assess the spaceship’s performance with a heavier landing weight and a center-of-gravity towards the back of the vehicle.

Chief pilot Mackay said: “We collected hundreds of gigabytes of data for us to review, and from the pilots’ point of view, it felt really wonderful."

Using the VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic aims to fly passengers into suborbital space. The company has already received bookings from several customers for the flight.


Image: Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity. Photo: courtesy of Virgin Galactic.