The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, VSS Unity, has made its third test flight, and the seventh in total for the SpaceShipTwo rocketplane design. The first four were flown by VSS Enterprise but it was destroyed in an accident involving premature feathering of the wing which killed co-pilot Mike Alsbury.

This latest flight had Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, separated from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft at approximately 1645 GMT on 26 July 2018, having previously taken off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. After a 42-second burn of the HTPB/Nitrous Oxide hybrid rocket engine, a peak velocity Mach 2.47 was attained and an altitude of 52 km was achieved. The craft glided back to Mojave after the flight. The pilots aboard were Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci.

VSS Unity ignites its engine on its third endo-atmospheric flight test. Courtesy: Virgin Galactic

 

The SpaceShipTwo craft, which is designed eventually to carry six space tourists plus two pilots on suborbital flights above the Karman line of 100 km. It is hoped that this limit will be achieved later this year after a few more incremental step test flights.