Space tourism company Virgin Galactic launched its first rocket-powered flight test since an accident in 2014 left one person dead. After a few seconds, Unity's rocket motor was brought to life and the pilots aimed the spaceship upwards into an 80 degree climb, accelerating to Mach 1.87 during the 30 seconds of rocket burn.
Over the course of a decade, Virgin Galactic built and tested the first version of its SpaceShipTwo, called VSS Enterprise, before the 2014 tragedy that killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and injured co-pilot Peter Siebold.
The spaceplane reached supersonic speeds before the engines cut off, and then it glided down for a safe landing at the company's spaceport back in Mojave.
The VSS Unity utilised the SpaceShipTwo spaceflight system which consists of WhiteKnightTwo, a custom-built, carrier aircraft, and SpaceShipTwo, the world's first passenger carrying spaceship to be built by a private company and be operated in commercial service.
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo performed its first powered test flight in more than three years yesterday (April 5), and a new video takes you along for the highly anticipated ride.
"We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic sending people into space and Virgin Orbit placing satellites around the Earth", Virgin Group Founder Branson said in October 2017, according to CNBC.
VSS Unity benefits from all the data and lessons gathered from the test program of her predecessor vehicle, VSS Enterprise.
At approximately 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), the tail-booms were lowered again. Shortly thereafter, Unity was directed towards the glide home, which concluded with a smooth landing back at Mojave. The next phase of testing is also now ready to commence, which will expand the duration of the rocket burns to their full potential under the design.
The firm praised pilots Mike Masucci and Nicola Pecile for the "great milestone test flight".
Today's test puts Virgin back on track toward Branson's goal of shuttling paying tourists on short trips into suborbital space. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.