Virgin Galactic Says Spacecraft's Powered Flight Successful

(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Galactic Ltd. flew its VSS Unity spacecraft on a powered test flight Thursday over the California desert, reaching supersonic speed during a partial engine burn, the company said via Twitter.

The aircraft completed its seventh glide flight in January, preparing for the powered flight.
The flight on Thursday reached a speed of Mach 1.6, Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson said in a Twitter post. Future tests are planned to fly the Unity into space. “Space feels tantalizingly close now,” Branson wrote.

  • The VSS Unity is dropped from a jet-engine shuttle aircraft, called Eve, at about 50,000 feet. It then ignites its rocket motor to leave earth’s atmosphere for a brief suborbital flight, before re-entry and a glider landing.
  • A Virgin Galactic test pilot, Michael Alsbury, was killed in an Oct. 2014 flight accident, which prompted a company redesign of the craft’s “feathered” tail booms used for re-entry.
  • Virgin Galactic plans to offer tourist flights to the edge of space from its facility at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico.
  • In October, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund invested $1 billion into Virgin Group’s three US-based space firms, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited Virgin Galactic’s California operation on April 2.

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