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Virgin Galactic Year-End Spaceship Two Glide Flight

First Posted: Dec 28, 2016 03:40 AM EST
VSS Unity
VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic's second SpaceShipTwo, glides during a Dec. 22 flight test.
(Photo : Virgin Galactic/Youtube Screenshot)

Virgin Galactic's second SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane played out its second free flight on Dec. 22 as the company plans to enter a very critical year in the vehicle's long-developed improvement.

The suborbital vehicle, named VSS Unity, took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California around 4:20 p.m. Eastern time. It was attached to its WhiteKnightTwo transporter aircraft, as indicated by updates given by the organization on Twitter.

SpaceShipTwo was discharged from WhiteKnightTwo around 40 minutes after and glided back to a runway arrival in Mojave. The company did not quickly discharge technical details about the flight, which were not reported ahead of time according to Space.com.

The flight was the second glide flight for VSS Unity, after a Dec. 3 flight. The first free flight was postponed for a month as a result of an unspecified specialized issue found after the flying machine had taken off on a Nov. 3 dry run.

This most recent flight is the last that the company arranged to do in 2016. George Whitesides, who is the CEO of Virgin Galactic, tweeted a couple of hours after the flight. He wrote that is was a great job to the pilots and the entire group. Awesome approach to end the year, indeed!

In October, Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses said that there was not a set number of glide flights arranged. Rather, the company wanted to do glide tests until it finishes all its test objectives.

Mike Moses evaluated that those objectives could be accomplished in around 10 flights; however, it could require more, or be wrapped up in less -- contingent upon the advance made amid the test flight program. In the event that there are no significant difficulties in the glide test program, Virgin Galactic will probably start powered test flight that will happen later in 2017.

Mike Moses said in October that of those test flights, starting with short-duration motor burns to quicken SpaceShipTwo to Mach 1 to study its execution in the transonic administration, they will start slow. He also added that once that is under their belts, they will punch through to full span, extend the envelope and look at the off-nominal conditions that can occur.

GeekWire reported that Virgin Galactic's Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky reprised their roles as SpaceShipTwo's pilots during this test flight.

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