This glide flight marks the inaugural solo flight of VSS Unity in New Mexico and as such is an important flight test milestone in preparation for commercial service. These included take-off and landing along with high-altitude release from the mothership, VMS Eve.
The flight took off from the Spaceport America runway, with VSS Unity attached to the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve. The vehicles climbed to an altitude of 50,000ft before Unity was released, at which point VSS Unity flew freely for the first time in New Mexico airspace.
The spaceship achieved a glide speed of Mach 0.70 and completed multiple test-points, before touching back down smoothly for a runway landing at Spaceport America.
This test flight was conducted under a set of stringent operational protocols to ensure safety against Covid-19. Its successful execution was made possible by a concerted effort to redesign all the operational elements required for safe flight test while meeting new health and wellness protocols. These protocols include changes to the work areas and procedures to enforce social distancing as advised by state guidelines as well as universal mask usage.
This flight milestone represents a major achievement which has been in the planning since SpaceShipTwo relocated to Virgin Galactic’s New Mexico commercial headquarters in February.
Virgin Galactic also fully concluded the relocation of its spaceline operations team and their families to New Mexico.
This glide flight provided the first opportunity to test all the components required to fly the carrier aircraft and spaceship in glide configuration, from a new home base and in new airspace.