The company is targeting Saturday May 22 for the third manned space flight of its SpaceShipDeux VSS Unity space plane, designed to carry people and payloads on brief trips into suborbital space. “It’s a beautiful day for space”, representatives of Virgin Galactic written on twitter early Saturday before the test flight.
The two-pilot, six-passenger unit first reached the final frontier during a test flight in December 2018, ensuite did it again in February 2019. These two missions took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in Southeastern California, near the headquarters of The Spaceship Company, the manufacturing subsidiary of Virgin Galactic.
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Saturday’s test mission will start from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the commercial hub of Virgin Galactic. It will be the first manned space flight from Enchantment Earth, state officials said.
Unity has already attempted space flight number three. The spacecraft took off under the wings of its carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, from Spaceport America on December 12. Eve dropped Unity at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) as planned, but the spacecraft the rocket motor did not ignite properly, and pilots CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay brought Unity down for a safe but earlier-than-expected landing on the spaceport runway.
Virgin Galactic attributed the problem to electromagnetic interference, which caused Unity’s on-board computer to restart just as the rocket motor was igniting. The company has made a few changes to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and testing the effectiveness of those fixes is a key focus of Saturday’s flight.
“The flight will also incorporate all of the original test objectives, including the evaluation of the improved horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the thrust phase of the flight, the evaluation of the customer’s cabin elements and the the live broadcast capability of the spacecraft on the ground ”, Virgin Galactic representatives written in a statement Thursday (May 20).
Unity will also be performing science experiments as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, they added.
Saturday’s flight is part of the final phase of Unity’s test campaign, which will likely include several additional test missions. If all goes well, the space plane could start of commercial operations at the beginning of 2022, Representatives of Virgin Galactic said.
Virgin Galactic is one of the two main players in the suborbital space tourism industry. The other, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, is preparing to launch its first paying customer on July 20. This person will be the auction winner, which will end on June 12. The main bid for the seat was $ 2.8 million on Thursday afternoon.
Mike Wall is the author of ” Over there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.