Second SpaceShipTwo Glides Safely


VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s replacement for the original SpaceShipTwo, which crashed in October of 2014, glided to a landing for the first time Saturday after three months of captive testing slung below WhiteKnightTwo. The 2014 crash killed copilot Michael Alsbury and injured pilot Peter Siebold. Unity separated from the mothership at 10:40 a.m. PST and glided back to the Mojave Air and Space Port about 10 minutes later. The next milestone will be powered flight but there has been no timeline announced for that.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic says the test moves its space tourism forward and the pre-crash goals remain the same: to democratize space flight and “to open space to change the world for good.” VSS Unity is the first vehicle built in-house by Virgin Galactic. The new spacecraft incorporates safety features that will prevent the premature release of the vehicle’s feathering mechanism, which resulted in the 2014 crash. The feathering was actuated by Alsbury as the spacecraft accelerated through Mach 1 and it was pulled apart. The feathering mechanism is used for deceleration from re-entry.Virgin Galactic hasn’t released video of the flight yet but here’s one on the first captive flight.