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Image Credit: Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic successfully conducted first fully crewed flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity

Virgin Galactic earlier today, July 11, 2021, succesfully conducted the first fully crewed flight of their SpaceShipTwo Unity spaceplane. The vehicle took off from Spaceport America in the U.S. state New Mexico, attached to the wing of its carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, also known as VMS Eve. Upon reaching the target release altitude of about 14 kilometers, VSS Unity and its crew of six were relased from WhiteKnightTwo. Just seconds later, the spaceplane fired its hybrid rocket engine and accelerated to Mach 1, the speed of sound, before the pilots pitched upwards toward space. After a minute of rocket-powered flight, the engine shut down and the two pilots and the four passengers could experience micro-gravity and a breathtaking few back down on the planet. A few minutes later, SpaceShipTwo reached its apogee at an altitude of 53.5 miles / 86.1 kilometers and slowly started descending back down to Earth. VMS Unity safely landed back at Spaceport America about 15 minutes after it was released from VMS Eve. The mission was the first fully crewed flight of the craft, the 22nd flight of VSS Unity and the fourth rocket-powered spaceflight conducted by Virgin Galactic.

Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett and Richard Branson seen flowting through Unity's crew cabin. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic.
Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett and Richard Branson seen flowting through Unity’s crew cabin. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic.

During today’s flight, VSS Unity was piloted by the two extremely experienced pilots Dave Mackay (14,000 flight hours) and Michael Masucci (over 10,000 flight hours). The four mission specialists inside Unity’s crew cabin were Beth Moses, the Chief Astronaut Instructor; Sirisha Bandla, the Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations; Colin Bennett, the Lead Flight Operations Engineer and Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic. VMS Eve was piloted by Kelly Latimer (6,200 flight hours) and Frederick Sturckow (6,600 flight hours) and also safely landed back at Spaceport America a few minutes after SpaceShipTwo Unity.

In the next few weeks after the Unity 22 mission, the company will conduct data reviews and extensive inspection of the spaceplane, to ensure that all systems performed as expected. After two more test flights, Virgin Galactic expects to begin flying space tourists to the edge of space in 2022.


Sources:

https://pressftp.virgingalactic.com/virgingalactic/press

https://www.virgingalactic.com/articles/virgin-galactic-announces-first-fully-crewed-spaceflight/

https://asteropspace.com/virgin-galactic-to-conduct-the-first-fully-crewed-flight-of-spaceshiptwo-unity/

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