Holidays including a trip into space are closer to becoming a reality as Virgin Galactic’s unique spacecraft has now completed a further set of test flights. Earlier this week SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial spaceship, demonstrated the unique ‘feathered’ configuration system to allow safe and effective re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceShipTwo completed a successful test flight which involved the spacecraft being taken up to 51,500 feet by the ‘mother-ship’ VMS Eve, before being released to glide back down to Earth. By rotating the tail section of the spacecraft upwards at an angle to the main body, SpaceShipTwo managed to descend almost vertically – falling in a similar way to a shuttlecock. Once the spaceship reached 33,500 feet, glide mode was reinstated to execute a runway touchdown around 11 minutes after being released from VMS Eve.
This re-entry system is vital to the completion of the test flights for the Virgin Galactic flights. Designers of the craft, Scaled Composite, devised the featured re-entry system from the philosophy of safety through simplicity – taking inspiration from the aerodynamics of the shuttlecock. George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, commended the latest test flight, saying that the re-entry system, “which is probably the single most important safety innovation within the whole system, works perfectly.” The spacecraft’s pilot, Pete Siebold, added “This morning’s flight was a test pilot’s dream.”
This test flight – the third in twelve days – has shown the world the abilities of SpaceShipTwo and is an important milestone for Virgin Galactic. While the enterprise has not yet announced a fixed date for commercial flights to begin, there are already 400 shortlisted passengers for the first flights.