Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceship, VSS Unity, took to the skies above the Mojave Desert on Thursday, the craft’s first test run since its predecessor SpaceShipTwo crashed and killed one of its pilots in 2014.
The flight was a so-called captive carry test in which the spaceship stayed attached to the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft for the duration of the flight, from takeoff all the way through landing. The initial test flights are being used to measure the performance of many of the spacecraft’s subsystems and components at cold temperatures, low atmospheric pressures, and high aircraft-like altitudes.
“Great to be back in the air!” wrote George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, on Twitter. “Team has worked (very) hard to get to this point.”
Once initial test flights are complete, VSS Unity will be dropped at high altitude from WhiteKnightTwo and perform a series of glide flight tests back to earth. Eventually, when it attempts a space launch, VSS Unity will be hauled up to 50,000 feet under the wing of White Knight Two, where it will be dropped and then rocketed beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
Technology reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @garrettreim on Twitter for the latest in L.A. tech news.
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