VSS Unity attached to mothership VMS Eve. Photo credit: Virgin Galactic
May 22nd, VSS Unity flies from Spaceport America, New Mexico
Two days ago Virgin Galactic announced, Saturday the 22nd we may see the the next rocket powered test flight of their SpaceShipTwo Unity. This of course was pending weather constraints and technical checks, but the mother ship jet aircraft VMS Eve has completed her maintenance review and is ready to do as she was designed, carry SpaceShiptTwo to an altitude of fifty thousand feet.
Once altitude is reached the VMS Eve will deploy the VSS Unity and the real test flight will begin. Crewed by two pilots spaceship will carry research payloads for NASA & their Flight Opportunities program. Another key objective of the flight will be to test the remedial work that has been finished on the VSS Unity to lower the EMI levels which were experienced on the December 12th 2020 flight. An onboard computer halted ignition of the rocket motor during this attempt and the craft returned safely to it’s landing strip at Spaceport America. Also incorporated on this flight are numerous other test objectives such as assessment of the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the boost phase of flight, evaluating elements in the customer cabin, and testing the live stream capabilities from the spaceship to ground control as well.
Today’s flight began shortly after 10:30 AM Est with the mothership taking off carrying VSS Unity under its hull. The pilots of VMS Eve being kelly Latimer & Michael Mascucci will escort/carry the spaceship up to an altitude of 44,000ft where they will release VSS unity and it’s two pilots, CJ Sturckow & Dave mackay where they will then launch into space. The flight will take about sixty minutes for the crafts to reach launching altitude. Their next tweet however was a bit contradictory as they stated the aircraft was at 30,000ft and nearly half way to release altitude. Being there was no live stream available to the public twitter was our best way to keep current with the goings on of today’s event. At 11;27 AM Est VSS Unity ignited it’s engines for what appeared to be a long duration to see if they reached what we consider space, or 80 kilometers for what is considered a sub orbital flight.
Virgin Galactic tweeted four minutes after the engines ignited that the ship, crew, and experiments were in space, and this becomes the first human spaceflight ever from New Mexico. The spaceship then entered the “coast phase” of the mission and “feathered” its tail booms for re-entry postion. Another minute after that the company tweeted that the VSS Unity was descending back to Earth. On descent the spaceship becomes a glider as it’s only engine is the one that takes into space. The craft will descend and circle back down to safely land back at Spaceport America. Virgin again tweeted that the feather had been lowered and they craft was gliding smoothly back to the runway. Just about 11:45 Am Est Virgin Galactic confirmed that VSS Unity had touched down safely and was back on the ground!