Latest test of Virgin Galactic in space

Virgin Galactic, led by Richard Branson, has conducted its final spaceflight test and is ready to open the commercial route
VSS Unity of Virgin Galactic took this selfie during its fifth crewed spaceflight, which took place on May 25, 2023. Credit: Virgin Galactic

After years of testing, Virgin Galactic has conducted its final space test. The mission on May 25, known as Unity 25, marked the last test flight to the final frontier since July 2021. In that test, billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, was present and invited other passengers. “We think if all goes well, we’ll be ready to fly on our first commercial flight in June” said Mike Moses, President of Space Missions and Safety at the company.

Virgin Galactic System

Virgin Galactic employs an air launch system to take people and payloads to suborbital space. This system currently consists of two operational vehicles. The first is a two-pilot, six-passenger spacecraft called VSS Unity, and the second is a carrier aircraft known as VMS Eve.

Both vehicles take off from a conventional runway. When Eve reaches an altitude of about 15,000 meters, Unity separates and ignites its rocket engine. Passengers on board can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth against the darkness of space before returning home for a runway landing.

Unity has already made this journey five times. The mission on May 25 began at 15:15 GMT when Eve took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. A total of eight people boarded the two vehicles, all employees of Virgin Galactic

Data from the final test

In this space test, Unity reached a maximum speed of Mach 2.94 and a maximum altitude of 87.2 kilometers, according to representatives from Virgin Galactic in a statement released after the flight (ref.).

The achieved altitude is high enough to be considered a spaceflight, according to NASA and the US Air Force, which award astronaut wings to anyone surpassing 80 kilometers. Unity returned to Earth at 16:37 GMT, landing on a runway at Spaceport America. Eve followed shortly after, officially ending the Unity 25 mission.”

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