Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity winged space plane made its second successful supersonic test flight, the company’s founder, Richard Branson, said Tuesday.
The vehicle’s rocket motor burned for 31 seconds as planned during the flight over the Mojave Desert in California, shooting the craft up 114,500 feet at a speed of Mach 1.9 – nearly twice the speed of sound – the company said.
“Today we saw VSS Unity in her natural environment, flying fast under rocket power and with a nose pointing firmly towards the black sky of space” he said. “The pathway that Unity is forging is one that many thousands of us will take over time, and will help share a perspective that is crucial to solving some of humanity’s toughest challenges on planet Earth.”
Smooth landing for VSS Unity. Congratulations to our pilots Dave Mackay and Mark “Forger” Stucky #SpaceshipTwo
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) May 29, 2018
Branson, who welcomed the flight crew back on the desert tarmac, said the focus of Tuesday’s flight was to better understand its handling, and test elements of the control system. The spacecraft also tested its re-entry “feathering system,” which slows the craft as it comes down.
The company’s main goal is commercial, high-frequency human spaceflight.