【VSS Unity太空飞机成功试飞 或今年内将乘客送入太空】

【VSS Unity太空飞机成功试飞 或今年内将乘客送入太空】近日,商业航天公司维珍银河Virgin Galactic的VSS Unity太空飞机在加利福尼亚成功完成了第七次滑翔测试。测试中,VSS Unity的母舰将其运送至5万英尺的高空并释放,VSS Unity达到其最高滑翔速度0.9马赫并成功返回地面,测试用压舱水模拟了火箭燃料使用时会造成的重量偏移。该公司表示VSS Unity将于4月份进行亚轨道试飞,并计划今年底实现商业飞行。目前已有700名客户预订了座位。

Virgin Galactic will send tourists into space within MONTHS: Richard Branson's VSS Unity spaceplane completes another successful glide test 3 years after the firm's deadly crash

  • Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceplane has completed a test flight in California
  • The plane dumped water to simulate the shift in weight when fuel is used
  • The test marks a key step toward the firm sending tourists into space this year 
  • In 2014 a Virgin Galactic test flight crash killed one pilot and injured another
  • Test saw Unity reach its top glide speed, hitting Mach 0.9 (670 mph/1080km/h) 

Virgin Galactic has completed another successful glide test of its VSS Unity spaceplane, putting the company on track to send tourists into space within months.

The test, which comes more than three years since the firm's fatal crash, saw the craft manoeuvre safely to the ground from an altitude of 50,000 feet (15,000m).

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson has claimed VSS Unity, the second version of the company's SpaceShipTwo, will take people on suborbital test flights by April.

So far, more than 700 affluent customers, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin's space trips, with commercial flights planned for the end of the year.


Founded in 2010 with the aim of taking paying customers to space and back again, tragedy struck Virgin Galactic in 2014 when a catastrophic SpaceShipTwo test flight crash killed one pilot and seriously injured another.

It took two years for the company to regain approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly SpaceShipTwo again.

Yesterday's glide test, VSS Unity's seventh, saw the craft sent up from California's Mojave Air and Space Port attached to a twin-fuselage White Knight carrier airplane.

Once the pair reached 50,000ft (15,000m), Unity was released for an unpowered descent back to the spaceport.

The test saw Unity reach its top glide speed, hitting Mach 0.9 (670 mph/1080kph) after it was pushed into a sharp descent upon release from its mothership.

In a statement, Virgin Galactic said Unity reached 'the maximum airspeed we can achieve without igniting the rocket motor.'

'It's been a few months since our last flight, during which we worked through a planned period of focused ground time,' Virgin said.

'This involved extensive analysis, testing and small modifications to ensure vehicle readiness for the higher loads and forces of powered test flight.




'Today we tested that work by pushing Unity's atmospheric capabilities hard, touching top-end glide speeds as pilots Mark 'Forger' Stucky and Michael 'Sooch' Masucci completed a busy test card.'

During the flight, as with previous tests, Unity dumped 450 litres of water, simulating the shift in weight that would normally be caused by rocket fuel.

Unlike other commercial spaceflight companies, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic initiates its flights without using a traditional rocket launch.

Instead, the firm launches VSS Unity and other craft from a carrier plane, dubbed VMS Eve.

On commercial flights, the pair will travel up to 50 miles (80 km) above the Earth's surface, an altitude defined as the edge of outer space by Nasa.

'Within seconds, the rocket motor will be engaged' and Unity will fly approximately three and a half times the speed of sound into suborbital space, according to Virgin.

'After the rocket motor has fired for around a minute, the pilots will safely shut it down.

'Having just experienced a thrilling, dynamic rocket ride, the dramatic transition to silence and to true weightlessness will be a profound moment for our astronauts as they coast upwards towards space.'

If further tests go to plan, Virgin Galactic could be the first company to send commercial flights into space.

In October, Richard Branson claimed he will go on a suborbital trip with his company by April 2018.

Speaking at the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki, Finland, Branson said: 'We are hopefully about three months before we are in space, maybe six months before I'm in space.'

He added he would be 'very disappointed' otherwise.

Later that month, Virgin Galactic president Mike Moses said it was unlikely that passengers - including Branson - will be on board test flights by then.

He added that the firm does plan to have one of its suborbital vehicles reach altitudes of more than 50 miles (80 km) above Earth's surface by February.

Moses addressed Branson's comments during a question-and-answer session at a commercial space flight conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

'Richard always poses a challenge. He likes to push very hard. Sometimes, I wish he wouldn't talk so much,' Moses said.

'But three months is about right. We hope to be in space by the end of this year. He's a little bit further away [from a flight] than that.'



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