On September 8, Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo, known as VSS Unity, took off for the first time. The VSS Unity is an all-carbon composite rocket plane designed by Scaled Composites. Back in February, Virgin Galactic unveiled the VSS Unity for the first time. It is the second ever SpaceShipTwo model ever built. The first, VSS Enterprise, was destroyed in a crash in late October 2014. The VSS Unity’s flight lasted 3 hours and 43 minutes.
“With this flight in the books, our team will now analyze a mountain of flight data, learning what worked well and what could be improved for our next flight test,” Virgin Galactic stated in on its website. “Only when that analysis is done, along with detailed vehicle inspections, some already-planned work, and potentially more captive carry flights, will we be ready to move into the next phase of test flight.”
The rocket plane was inspired by the design of Scaled Composites founder and composites industry legend Burt Rutan. It can take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to space. It starts its flight attached to a mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo. The space plane then gets carried to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) by WhiteKnightTwo, and then dropped.
“In this configuration, WhiteKnightTwo serves as a veritable ‘flying wind tunnel,’ allowing the highest fidelity method of testing airflow around SpaceShipTwo while simultaneously testing how the spaceship performs when exposed to the frigid temperatures found at today’s maximum altitude of ~50,000 feet and above,” Virgin Galactic explains.
The SpaceShipTwo eventually will be in the business of carrying tourists who have paid up to $250,000 into space. For a behind the scenes look, check out Virgin Galactic’s video below: